WSU unit to lead Jefferson County's economic development efforts

By Evan Cael, Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND - The three Jefferson County commissioners appointed a team of people affiliated with Washington State University as the county's new economic development agency.

The contract replaces one with Diversified Resources Inc. that expired last month.

At a meeting Monday, the commissioners were introduced to the members of the Port Hadlock-based WSU economic development team moments before appointing them as the county's official economic developer.

Headed by Katherine Baril, WSU director of economic and community development, the team now will enter into a $29,000 contract with the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

It will also receive $25,000 from the county to work to stimulate the local economy.

The county contract was previously held by Diversified Resources, a Port Hadlock-based nonprofit organization also funded by the state.

Diversified Resources focuses on affordable housing.

Its contract expired in July, resulting in Jefferson County staff auditioning it and other agencies interested in being the county's official "associated development organization."

Three competing
WSU, Diversified Resources and the Economic Development Council of Jefferson County interviewed with County Administrator John Fischbach, Community Development Director Al Scalf and former community development lead long-range planner Brent Butler.

"After the interviews, it was unanimous in all our minds [to recommend WSU]," said Scalf.

It was the best-qualified agency, Fischbach said.

Ian McFall, executive director of the Economic Development Council, expressed disappointment that the private agency wasn't appointed, but he said he will work with WSU to try to stimulate the county's sagging economy.

At one time, the EDC was the "associated development organization" for promoting economic growth, but internal conflicts two years ago spurred the county to purse the contract with Diversified Resources.

Margaret Maxwell, Diversified Resources executive director, was unavailable for comment Monday.
'Tone for collaboration'
Baril said she looks forward to working with the other two agencies as well as businesses that have the goal of developing the county's economy.

"We saw this as an opportunity to step forward with leadership," Baril said.

She said she'll be "setting a tone for collaboration."

The first thing the WSU team will do is to go out to visit local businesses to see how to best to help them.

One by one, the team members rose at Monday's commissioners meeting to introduce themselves and tell of their background.

The team is:

  • Purdy, who works with WSU Small Business Development Center.
  • Craig Weir, who has software and Internet expertise.
  • Bill Wise, a business mentor with marketing experience.
  • Briar Kolp, general manager of the Port Townsend Co-op.
  • Aletia Alvarez, former executive director of Wooden Boat Foundation.
  • Danille Turissini, public relations specialist.

    The team will be managed by Baril and John Gardner, WSU vice president of extension and economic development.