SNOHOMISH, WA-Utilizing grants from the Forest Service and local agencies, this small farming and logging town northeast of Seattle has set to work on an economic development plan officials and residents alike hope will drive commercial growth and help bring thousands of new jobs over the next several years.

Ann Caley, a senior planner for the city, says the overwhelming feedback provided by the town’s 8,000 residents is that they want to work in the town where they live, rather than commute as they are currently forced to do. “I think there is a consensus that the folks who live here want to work here. But we don’t have the jobs,” notes Caley. “And according to our projected population growth in our area, we could fill 10,000 additional jobs by 2005.”

The plan, the first in 25 years for the city, is being crafted after extensive input by residents and business owners. The city council is expected to approve the plan by the end of November.

Snohomish’s lack of jobs, says Caley, stems in part from the spotted owl controversy and the limitations it has imposed on logging. One of the city’s biggest challenges in attracting new commercial development and new businesses, he says, is the Endangered Species Act. It protects the salmon found in the region, but makes the building of necessary infrastructure an expensive proposition.

“We have an area zoned for a business park, but we don’t have sewer and communications services there, and that is a real stumbling block because it’s very expensive to develop the infrastructure so that it complies with the Endangered Species Act,” notes Caley.

Despite the challenges, Caley says her town is moving full steam ahead to develop a long-term plan for the region that will drive the commercial development and bring the jobs. One item on the resident’s wish list is a campus-style office complex that would host high-tech employers and a mixed-use development that would feature small shops and entrepreneural businesses such as those found in Seattle’s eclectic Fremont district.

“We have a good, educated workforce here,” notes Caley. “We’re trying to make sure we’ve got the opportunity for folks who want to work here. I don’t think the state of Washington wants to continue to be in the business of building highways.”

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