Discussions focus on benchmarks for economic development association

Councils and port will cast their votes to create the entity in June

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Bringing jobs and dollars to the Camas-Washougal area will be a focus of the soon-to-be-created Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, but exactly how to measure its success at doing so has yet to be determined.

Yesterday during a joint meeting between the Camas and Washougal City Councils and the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission, officials discussed a proposed inter-local agreement that if approved would form the organization.

According to the draft document, which would run through Dec. 31, 2013, the entity would be governed by a five-member board which would include the mayor and a council member from each city, and a port commissioner. There would also be four non-voting members, including the executive directors of each entity and the executive director of the CWEDA.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Cascade Planning Group, owned by Camas Mayor Paul Dennis, has been selected to become the CWEDA’s new economic development director. Dennis then announced his resignation from his elected position during the May 16 City Council meeting.

The inter-local agreement also includes an opt-out clause, and limits the amount of money contributed by each entity annually to $100,000 for the port and $50,000 for each city.

“The purpose of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association shall be to promote and assist economic development in east Clark County as defined by the boundaries of the port and the cities of Camas and Washougal,” the draft agreement states. “This will include developing and implementing an economic development plan to promote economic vitality of the Camas-Washougal area.

“While all sectors of the economy should benefit, retail businesses and businesses with the potential of providing high paying jobs and diversifying the economic base are the primary focus.”

Washougal City Councilwoman Molly Coston said the participants should move the project forward, but with thoughtful caution and planning.

“I think it’s important that we do this right and do this well,” Coston said. “It’s an innovative undertaking. I think we all know we have not always been the best of siblings to one another…We will have to be cautious and well thought out in the way that we proceed.”

The draft document includes a list of “performance measures,” and “deliverables,” for the new organization.

“Deliverables” include establishing the CWEDA organization and its governing board, bylaws and a website; developing a strategic plan; taking an inventory of land and buildings available for business development; providing monthly status reports to the board; and contacting a minimum of 20 businesses per month in an effort to build relationships and develop leads.

Performance benchmarks included in the draft document were described by some of the elected officials as broad. They include direct and indirect business revenues, job creation and retention, and payroll and household income, and direct tax benefits.

Washougal City Administrator David Scott said more specific guidelines could be part of the initial tasks completed by the economic development director and the board.

“The approach is that this board would draft as part of its strategic plan these ‘metrics and what success would look like for this organization,” he said.

Washougal Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he would like to see a more specific set of goals laid out before hiring an economic development director or establishing the organization. He described the draft agreement as using measures of achievement that are “activity based,” instead of “jobs and dollars” based.

“The way this effort is being structured, there is no guarantee that this economic development will even take place,” he said. “I think $200,000 is a lot to pay with so little prospect of success.”

Camas City Councilman Steve Hogan said he is in favor of the formation of the CWEDA as proposed in the draft inter-local agreement.

“I think it has the potential to have a positive impact for the total community, and I think that’s huge,” he said.

The final inter-local agreement will be presented for approval during meetings of each governing body the week of June 6.