EDC asks for more money

The Economic Development Council for Island County is seeking to re-brand, but it needs more money from Island County to do so.

“We have a big vision,” Executive Director Sharon Sappington told the board of county commissioners Wednesday. “It’s really to just be the premier economic resource for Island County.”

Sappington and the EDC board president Laura Cailloux met with commissioners to present this vision and ask for an additional $14,937 from the county in 2018. The increase would bring the total for this year to $33,687.

“It’s the investment we need now to sustain the staff we have in place, to sustain the scope of work we’re looking at,” Cailloux said.

For 2019, the EDC is asking for a total of $134,750, which is an additional $59,750 from its original contract. Part of its plan will be to find funding sources outside of the county in the form of grants, partnerships and private sector investment. The additional funding would go toward staff wages for the executive director, a special assistant, a temporary special project position and an administrative position that will be added in July 2019.

Commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Jill Johnson supported the plans and the funding request.

“I think we need to put our money where out mouth is,” Johnson said. “And if this is important to us, then the money follows.”

She said in the past, the commissioners had tried withholding funding until the results came in, and “that had not gotten us where we needed to go.”

Sappington said the council’s main objectives will center around business retention and expansion, entrepreneurship, data and business recruitment. Her goal is to collaborate with other agencies and organizations to ensure they are “promoting the same goals.”

The council’s current projects are working to get public access to Whidbey Airport and installing high-speed broadband across the island.

Sappington also said she wants to put more of a focus on “economic gardening,” which is helping companies that are past the startup stage and are considered “second stage.”

Commissioner Rick Hannold spoke more skeptically of the request. He wanted to know what return on investment the county would see and in what time frame. He also said he wanted to see a more specific scope of work.

“I don’t care how many widgets you made,” he said. “I just want to know what the end result is.”