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EVERETT, WA-With King County office space filling up and Tacoma spending freely to lure the overflow down into Pierce County, the neighbor to the north is gearing up for a five-year, $4-million counterattack.

The Snohomish County Economic Development Council, which has a $300,000 annual budget this year and the equivalent of three full-time employees, is lobbying to raise an extra half million dollars annually to lure high-tech companies and their relatively well-paying jobs. It’s an attempt to prove the city of Everett equally as attractive as Pierce County’s Tacoma, which wouldn’t have been saying much until recently.

After decades with the reputation for being foul smelling, Tacoma is making a comeback as a high-tech mecca. After dropping $100 million on a citywide fiber-optic network and another $129,000 for a marketing strategy guide from the New York public relations firm Development Counselors International, the city has gone on a public relations blitz that’s already showing signs of success.

In the last few months, magazines and newspapers have featured sweeping views of Mount Rainier and free-flowing freeways, clean air in the sky and fiber optics in the ground. “America’s No. 1 Wired City,” the advertisements say. The best advertising is always free, however, and the city has been getting more than its fair share lately.

An Aug. 5 article in The New York Times dismissed the “Tacoma Aroma” reputation and affirmed that the city is rebounding. Also in August, Business Week deemed Tacoma “high in fiber.” The city’s advertising blitz is to keep up the momentum created last summer with stories in the Oregonian and the Wall Street Journal, and a “second best midsize city in which to locate a business” ranking last October by Entrepreneur magazine. It’s all exactly what the Snohomish County Economic Development Council wants for Everett, a city known for the Boeing airplanes built there more than anything else.

To that end, the development council has asked the port, the city and the county to up their annual contributions to cover much of the extra $500,000 annually it says it will need. The council is also asking private companies that help support the organization to boost their contributions, and hoping the county’s community colleges will provide space for a business incubator to help companies get started, and provide expertise in translating existing marketing videos and materials into Japanese.

The money goes toward an updated inventory of available industrial land, a broad marketing campaign, computers, travel and staff, with the ultimate goal of producing 4,000 jobs over the next five years that pay between $38,000 and $40,000 a year, what the council considers a livable wage.

For Tacoma, the success of its recent marketing blitz is too early to tell. In Virginia, however, the Greater Richmond Partnership Inc. has been at it since 1994, opening an overseas trade office, attending trade shows and spending on regional advertising. The partnership claims it worked with companies that have made $3 billion in capital investments and now employ some 52,000 people in the area.

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