City puts effort into community development
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
WENATCHEE — To put greater emphasis on attracting and keeping businesses and bolstering the local economy, the city has created a new Department of Community and Economic Development.
“It’s not just land-use planning and zoning and code enforcement, it’s a way of rounding up all the different functions of the city and focusing on building a better community,” said Wenatchee City Councilman Mark Kulaas.
“We just want to make sure we’re in a position where we can maintain the services we have, be very attractive to new businesses and continue to be a center of commerce for our region,” he added.
Steve King, an engineer who has been overseeing planning and building services, is the new director of the department. Dan Frazier, formerly the city’s director of public works operations, is now the director of the newly merged Department of Public Works. Frazier and King previously co-directed public works services for the city.
Now King will focus his efforts on things like neighborhood improvement, development and redevelopment of land in the city, making sure city services are meeting the needs of businesses, and making sure social programs are adequate for the residents’ needs.
“Business retention, expansion and growth are critical areas I’ll work on,” King said. “The community’s health is based on its economy. ... Car dealerships have moved to East Wenatchee, which has had a drastic impact on our economy. We want to make sure businesses have an opportunity to be successful here.”
He also sees himself working with tourism organizations to expand opportunities for visitors and working closely with Wenatchee Valley College and businesses to see if more job training is needed. King said he recently attended a workshop at the college with several regional businesses to talk about the need for more skilled machinists.
“We want to make sure the city is a partner and not an obstacle,” he said.
Kulaas said that as the city works to develop a new plan for South Wenatchee, the new Department of Community and Economic Development will look at affordable housing, business and commerce, job retention and creation, public safety and social services in that part of the city.
Wenatchee previously had a community development department, but eliminated it some years ago for budget reasons.
“It’s time that we step up and be more of a facilitator and promoter of the community as a whole,” Kulaas said, adding that City Council members “are all pretty enthusiastic about this.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152
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