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Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Jim Kuntz addresses recent meeting of Economic Advisory Committee
Success in retaining and creating living wage jobs in all the communities of Walla Walla County can’t be realized without careful planning.  
    That’s why the Port of Walla Walla’s economic development efforts are guided by a carefully designed, comprehensive plan. Economic Development Director Paul Gerola said the six-part plan features specific elements of work and includes benchmarks to be used in measuring the success of development activities.
    While not in any order of importance, Gerola lists the elements of the plan as follows:
    The lead for small business development is taken by the Walla Walla Area Small Business Center. The Center provides one-on-one business counseling and training to business owners, operators and entrepreneurs. The Small Business Center is a partnership between the Port, Walla Walla Community College, The Small Business Administration, Washington Manufacturing Services and Washington State University’s Partnership for Rural Development. The Center is located in the Port’s administration office building at 310 A Street, Walla Walla Regional Airport.
    This element is designed to provide assistance to businesses in Walla Walla County. Activities include annual “status” meetings with the county’s largest employers, supporting expansions that provide family wage jobs and encouraging “buy local” initiatives. Benchmarks include tracking the number of businesses visited and the number of local businesses expanding their operations.
    This work element encompasses marketing private and Port-owned properties, recruiting new businesses, attending development related trade shows, maintaining the Port’s Web pages, conducting targeted marketing campaigns and developing promotional brochures. Benchmarks include the number of qualified business leads generated, new businesses locating in Walla Walla county and the number and quality of jobs created.
    Activities in this element are designed to identify and secure suitable sites for industrial and business development. This may include obtaining proper zoning, and extending roads, water, sewer and other utilities at the site. Benchmarks are to complete at least two infrastructure projects per year.
    This initiative includes collecting, analyzing and publishing economic and demographic profiles of the Walla Walla Valley. The Port publishes a largest employer list, labor market conditions and tourism economic indicators. Benchmarks include utilization of the data by community policy makers, existing businesses and prospective new businesses.
    This part of the plan involves work aimed at maintaining a positive climate for economic development in Walla Walla County. Activities include encouraging city, county, state and federal government agencies to maintain a “friendly attitude” toward business in areas relating to regulation, permitting and taxation. Benchmarks include the presence of favorable policies affecting economic growth and public understanding and support for local development efforts.
    Public participation in the Port of Walla Walla’s Economic Advisory Committee meetings is welcomed and encouraged. Bi-monthly meetings start at Noon in the Airport Terminal Building community meeting room. If you’d like to attend this regular review of the implementation of the Economic Development Plan and discuss current development issues call 509-525-3100 to be added to the Port’s committee mailing list.
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