Don’t nitpick economic development effort

It’s often been said that in the course of a heated debate, the fewer words spoken the better. Especially when everyone wants to weigh in for as long as they can, fewer words, written or spoken, can have more impact.

So, from my chair in the peanut gallery, I offer just five words of advice to those anguishing through the final process of hiring a director for the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

Relax. Proceed. Trust. Hold accountable.

We’ll get back to those words in a minute, but first a quick update on the new economic development entity.

As reported in the Post-Record, the cities of Camas, Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal have joined forces to create a new economic development association for the east county area. This soon-to-be created entity would focus on bringing new companies and jobs specifically to the Camas-Washougal area, as well as supporting assisting existing businesses.

Much work still needs to be done before this new organization can get off the ground, including the development and implementation of the main economic development plan that will drive it. The inter-local agreement will be presented for a final vote of approval by the elected officials of the Port, and the cities of Camas and Washougal the week of June 6.

Hopefully the current indecision, doubt and border line nitpicking that seems to be coming mostly from the Washougal City Council, regarding the selection of Paul Dennis and Cascade Planning Group to lead the organization, won’t kill this effort before it ever gets out of the gate. Councilors in Washougal speak of being “torn” and needing to be “above reproach” regarding the selection of Dennis. “We should avoid the appearance of conflict of interest,” commented councilor Dave Shoemaker. “This process has not met that standard.”

So here’s my advice again, all wrapped up in just five words. Relax. Proceed. Trust. Hold accountable.

One, the powers that be, especially in Washougal, need to relax and focus on getting rid of the barriers, perceived or real, that are preventing them from moving forward with Dennis at the helm of this new entity. In short, get the legal opinions in and if there are no conflicts, which is likely, then take the next step.

Two, the next step is to proceed and approve the inter-local agreement. This has a huge potential impact for Camas and Washougal. It’s time we took the plunge and got it done.

Three, after the ink is dry on the agreement, we should trust that the right decision has been made. Dennis has excellent credentials in the area of economic development. We have to trust that the best available person for this job was hired.

Finally, and maybe most important, Dennis and Cascade Planning Group will need to be held accountable. There should be clear expectations for bringing new jobs to our communities — with a definite time line for some initial success. One year would seem like a reasonable time line for this new organization to bring at least one new company, with family wage jobs, to the area.

So again, everyone take a deep breath and repeat after me. Relax. Proceed. Trust. Hold accountable. Or put simpler, let’s officially hire Paul Dennis and then get out of the way and let him do his job.

Mike Gallagher can be reached by e-mail at mike.gallagher@camaspostrecord.com

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