EDC ready to split up

There are some big changes afoot at the Island District Economic Development Council, not least of which is a probable split in the organization.

The agency's director, Sharon Hart, announced this week that the EDC will halve itself into two distinct entities representing Island and San Juan counties.

The creation of two separate organizations will mean a potential loss of $9,000 in state funding for Island County, but more time for the organization to focus on business efforts close to home.

Formerly, the Island District EDC, which has offices in Coupeville, worked to promote business development throughout the two counties. However, pending state approval on July 30, the San Juan segment of the EDC's advisory board wants to create its own distinct EDC with a full slate of state funding, Hart said Tuesday.

"It's the next step," Hart said. "We're ready for it. We won't be their umbrella agency any more."

Hart said the change is mostly an issue of growth and self-sufficiency, with the San Juan segment of the EDC prepared to take over as an independent agency dedicated to projects solely in their jurisdiction.

"They have done several projects under our tutelage that are really ready to go," Hart said.

She added that the San Juan EDC split-off should be a go "so long as they can sustain it in the state's eyes." Hart said she already has received verbal approval from the state for the separation of the two EDCs, and she doesn't think there should be any official snags.

For now, the split will mean a loss of $9,000 of the total state funding for the Island County chapter. This is because, as yet, they have not been recognized as a rural EDC, even though the state legislature this year granted Island County rural designation status. Whether the EDC receives the extra money above its state allotment of $20,000 depends on the state's approval of rural status as applied specifically to the organization.

The San Juan EDC, on the other hand, will continue to receive $29,000 in rural council funding.

The flip side of the pending split, Hart said, is that her organization now will be able to focus its efforts exclusively on encouraging business growth in Island County. Other efforts include helping individuals start up their own businesses by assisting in locating funding sources, and putting industrial zoned properties throughout the county on-line through the state's internet site, which Hart said is a powerful business recruitment tool.

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