Jan. 5, 2006
King County Executive Ron Sims has issued a report outlining initial steps to strengthen the economy of rural King County.
The Rural Economic Strategies Report is the result of a year-long comprehensive public process involving rural residents, farmers, foresters, business owners and rural stakeholder groups. It is one piece of a larger King County effort to continue working with rural residents to ensure the rural way of living is retained as an option into the future.
The report chronicles the current economic conditions in rural areas of King County, identifies strategies and action items that can be implemented and does not propose any new policies.
"Preserving these rural lands, so close to the major urban center of the Pacific Northwest, creates both fantastic opportunities for interactions between rural and urban residents, including farmers markets that offer quality, fresh local produce, as well as challenges to support the long term economic viability of those who work and live on these rural resource lands," Sims said.
"For us, the close proximity to the dairy and quality of the milk produced by the dairy is essential to making great cheese," said Kurt Dammeier, founder of Beecher's Handmade Cheese at the Pike Place Market. "Without King County's commitment to preserving farmland close to the urban core, it would be impossible for us to make the kind of quality cheeses that we do."
Included in the report are examples of economic enhancement projects now under way as a result of King County Rural Economic Strategies program, such as assisting small-scale lumber producers and partnering with rural communities to apply for federal grants to improve infrastructure.
"The City of Duvall is happy to be part of a collaborative economic strategy for the rural area, and we value King County as a partner," said Duvall Mayor Will Ibershof, who is also President of the Snoqualmie Valley Government Association. "We are pleased that King County sees rural economic development as valuable to the county's overall economy, and that King County recognizes the importance of ensuring appropriate commercial development occurs within city boundaries."
The report and accompanying rural economic strategies are based on the ideas, suggestions and recommendations that were presented by rural residents and stakeholders at a series of public meetings and through personal communications.
As a result of the recent dialogue, Sims said King County identified six economic "clusters" as critical to the long-term economic viability of rural unincorporated King County. They are: agriculture, forestry, home-based businesses, tourism and recreation, rural towns and neighborhood centers and rural cities.
The use of economic clusters as the foundation for the rural economic strategies parallels and complements the use of industrial clusters in the Regional Economic Strategy recently adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council.
Sims noted that King County had already taken some steps to strengthen rural economies in King County, including:
Sims said new ideas were explored during an ongoing public dialogue with rural residents to strengthen the rural economy while preserving rural character in King County.
Among the new concepts suggested were:
"Consumers in King County are fortunate to have farm-fresh products available to them year-round, and preserving these sources of locally produced food is so important to the rural economy," said Michaele Blakely, a King County-based farmer and agriculture commissioner.
Sims said he has directed his staff to begin work on the strategies and action items outlined in the report. He will also provide an annual progress report to the Metropolitan King County Council.
"I'm excited by the creative energy that has been tapped as a result of our public discussions on improving King County's rural economy," Sims said. "One of the most important features of this ongoing process is developing new, durable lines of communication between our rural citizens and its government."
Updated: Jan. 6, 2006