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MAYOR'S BEAT | Economic development is Langley’s top priority in 2014
By FRED McCARTHY
Last month, I used some boating stories to talk about our current economic condition and the future in and around Langley. In January, we departed from the dock. We initiated 2014 with a lean budget and streamlined services. We have decreased the processing time for building permits and plans approval. We lowered the minimum-base gallon rate and cost for water usage by 1,000 gallons as a savings incentive to low-end users; we are completing an in-depth study of our police department prior to deciding the staffing level — the number of officers on the force — for the future. We funded the start of a new Langley Whale Center — $10,000 — and helped with the extraordinary costs to the Port of South Whidbey for the removal of contaminated soil encountered in installing the new Port marina waterline on city property —$14,700. We have budgeted funds for economic development ideas and tourism proposals. We gave our staff a 2.8 percent salary increase that included 1 percent for actual performance evaluated against standards. We have implemented the first month of targeted activities of a 12-month plan for improving our economy.
In January our focus was on information technology/knowledge workers. We visited with them in their businesses and nine of them came to a light lunch at City Hall with three council members, four city supervisors, and the director of the Island County Economic Development Council, or EDC. We shared our baseline data for measuring economic development, heard about their successes, saw them learning from each other, heard their input and observed them networking together. We shared some exciting plans with them from the EDC and the Center for New Media right here in Langley for monthly business development seminars and social media marketing training on the first Tuesday morning of each month starting in March 2014.
In February, we are focussing on arts and entertainment businesses and people. Each month thereafter we will engage with another different job sector group for the remainder of 2014. They will be: March — food and beverage services; April — real estate; May — Port, marina, water sports; June — cottage industries and manufacturing; July — civic groups/organizations, August — retail/health and wellness; September — financial, mail and other; October — education; November — lodging; and December — transportation/recreation. We will be using a number of metrics to measure progress towards our economic goals that will include retail sales tax revenues, hotel/motel tax revenues, real estate excise tax revenues, employers and employment statistics, total wages, employment and unemployment rates in the city.
The $2.2 million Second Street Transformation Project is well underway. Citizens have remarked on the city’s planning and coordination, the amount of work getting done each day, and the courtesy and positive attitude of the construction workers. These are all good indicators of a quality project that was funded with a combination of external grant funding.
The voyage ahead looks promising and we welcome crew members looking to be a part of the economic adventure. Catch up and join the cruise at one of our future ports of call.