Mayor’s beat — 2014 : A year of economic development


About 20 years ago I heard a superintendent of a large school district in Arizona address a conference of educators. She was insightful, engaging and funny, and her message has stayed with me all these years. She said something that we in Langley can relate to because it involved boats. She said, “If there is a hole in the boat, there is a hole in the whole boat.” Everyone leaned forward to hear the next statement. She went on to say, “When you are on a boat, you can’t say I don’t care if the stern goes down because where I am on the bow is above water right now.”

Why is the city embarking on a year of focus on economic development? There is a hole in the boat. The boat is the economy that used to exist here.

Out through the hole has poured about 500 students from our schools since 2007 and their families. They went because there was not sufficient employment to be able to afford to stay here. Most loved this place and the quality of life, but they couldn’t stay. It broke a lot of hearts to see this happen. They moved where there were jobs.

What can we do? We have a choice. When you are on a boat you can either look in the wake at the flotsam and jetsam or you can stand on the bow and look out at the horizon. We can either look back at opportunities lost and/or missed or look forward to emerging opportunities on the horizon. The city council and I believe there are signs on the horizon of a red sky at night. “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors’ delight.”

So what are some of the indicators in the evening red sky? According to one local hotel owner, “Eight local businesses in Langley had their best year ever in 2013.” Some dedicated individuals are creating the Langley Whale Center. Do you know what the most visited tourist attraction is in the San Juan Islands? It’s a whale museum. Can you picture a turbine-powered Clipper or the Hat Island Ferry arriving at our new 266-foot lighted dock with people from Seattle or Everett? Did you know that the beautiful Mystic Sea made 60-plus whale watching trips last year out of Langley and they saw whales on virtually every trip? They plan more for this year. Did you see that Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is adding 30 more jobs in the future, bringing their work force to 250?

Timing is everything. We think the moons are lining up for a banner year in 2014. Island County data predicts 3 to 5 percent economic growth. We had our best year in four years in 2013 in Langley in terms of sales tax and hotel/motel tax. We have within ourselves the tremendous power to envision and move into a more prosperous future. The most valuable resource we have here in Langley is the human resource. We have an older, more highly educated, more successful, and more optimistic demographic than almost any other location in the world. If we can engage these people effectively, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

We can have a virtual and physical presence for many businesses. We can recruit IT/knowledge workers to move here. We can help enable people of means to build structures that enhance the scale, theme and character of our unique city, and leave a legacy for generations to come. We can support cottage industries, markets, and light manufacturing. We can become one of the most technologically connected and social media sophisticated cities of our size in the world. We can sustain our local farms and eat more healthily and improve the quality of our lives. We are surrounded with inspiring flora, fauna, bird and sea life. We are enriched by hundreds of artists, authors, and musicians living in our midst.

If not now, when? What talent skill, ability, or interest do you have that could help make this happen? We want to hear your ideas and involve you in a significant way. Send us your e-mail and let us know where you would like to help out. The boat is leaving the dock shortly. The evening sky is red. Don’t miss the voyage.

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