The Puyallup Planning Commission has unanimously endorsed drafting a new economic development plan to be part of the 2015 Comprehensive Plan Update.
Development services staff presented city council members an update on the process during a study session on Aug. 27, and much of the discussion revolved around how the city should proceed as it drafts an economic development element.
Development Services Director Tom Utterback recommended looking at it as “a staff-driven effort, part of a two-year collaborative process” with council members, city staff and the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce.
A second option may be to have a consultant-produced plan. But Utterback told council members that would likely cost more than $100,000.
“With the cost of hiring a consultant, we could hire an economic development director, so I’m not overly fond of that option,” council member Tom Swanson said.
Council member Steve Vermillion asked development services staff if hiring an economic analyst would help the city define an economic element.
It wouldn’t hurt, staff members said.
“My biggest concern is I don’t want to see the downtown die out,” Vermillion said. “That should be our hub of the economy. South Hill is growing, and that is good for South Hill and Pierce County, but it’s too easy for downtown businesses to decide to move to South Hill. It would behoove us to have an economic analyst on board.”
Vermillion said he hopes City Manager Bill McDonald is listening. Mayor Rick Hansen agreed.
“I think it’s time to hire a new economic development director,” Hansen said. “There is an opportunity still here to make good decisions based on someone who is involved with economic development 24 hours a day.”
Council member John Knutsen hesitated, saying the development services staff members fill the role adequately.
“I think with the resources we have, I would not be in support of hiring a $70,000-to-$80,000 economic development director to replace what appears to be going well,” Knutsen said.
Swanson said the current system does well to attract a big employer to the city every one to three years; it doesn’t help existing businesses hire new employees.
“An economic development director would work well in connecting to the chamber and business community and back to city council,” Swanson said.