CEDS 2022-2026 Goals and Objectives
Whatcom County, WA

Drawing on the SWOT analyses, regional priorities outlined in other strategies, plans and reports, immense stakeholder engagement, as well as a thorough review of CEDS and economic development best practices, below are the goals (numbered) and objectives (bullets).

Please note that goals and objectives are not in rank order and numbering or ordering should not be interpreted as implying priority. Every goal and objective is important.

1. Build upon and strengthen Whatcom County’s economic base [1].

• Cultivate a business friendly environment – Promote and support local governments in creating responsive, helpful, and expedient services that promote Whatcom County as a great place to do business.

• Business retention and expansion (BR&E) – Continue to work with and provide resources to Whatcom’s advanced manufacturing and professional services sectors. This creates living wage jobs, increase the local tax base and supports our high quality of life.

• Small business support – Support the small businesses in Whatcom County that provide both entry level and family wage jobs.

• Economic diversification and recruitment – Research and identify current and future sectors showing the greatest potential for growth. Work to recruit businesses in those sectors.

• Shovel ready sites – Support partners in sustainably developing existing industrially zoned lands to have graded parcels with basic utility, road, and transport access.

• Industrial building supply – Work with partners to create a diverse industrial building supply in Whatcom County.

• Entrepreneurship and sole proprietorship – Continue to engage with Whatcom County’s many entrepreneurs and sole proprietors and our partners who work with them.

• Innovation, technological and value-added upgrading – Support and promote innovation, technological advances, and value-added processing/products across all sectors, but especially in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, energy, forestry, marine trades, and recreation.

• Rural economic development – Continue to promote and support economic development in rural areas of Whatcom County, support rural entrepreneurs, and advance rural economic recovery efforts.

• Local jurisdiction development – Support, promote, and assist economic development planning as well as business recruitment, retention, and expansion efforts with local jurisdictions per their request and preference. This includes but is not limited to the Small Cities, the Lummi Nation, the Nooksack Indian Tribe, as well as the rural and unincorporated parts of Whatcom County.

• Waterfront redevelopment – Continue to support the Port of Bellingham and the City of Bellingham’s Waterfront Redevelopment efforts per their request and preference.

• Environmental stewardship – Promote and support businesses and policies that protect and enhance our natural environment and increase resiliency.

• Affordable and available housing – Work with local jurisdictions and service providers to inform and assist with the development of affordable and available housing choices for all income levels in Whatcom County.

• Affordable and available childcare – Promote and support affordable and available quality childcare choices for all income levels in Whatcom County.

• Financially literate generalists - Work with partner organizations to ensure that residents and businesses have a basic understanding of the workings of a healthy community, including the role of economic developers, the relationship between business and communities, as well as financial literacy.

[1] The term economic base typically refers to companies and employers that generate wealth and bring income in from outside, such as exporting industries. Certain types of service industries, such as retail, often support these industries. Given the nature of Whatcom County’s economic ecosystem it also makes sense for the division to focus on tradeable sectors as there are multiple other actors who service the retail sector in Whatcom County, such as the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce as well as the Small City and unincorporated local area chambers, Downtown Bellingham Partnership and other downtown associations, Sustainable Connections, and the WWU SBDC, to name but a few.

2. Develop and enhance critical infrastructure that promotes economic development and resiliency.

Strategic utility investments – Promote efficient and resilient utility development and expansion that supports that region’s business and economic development needs.

Communications infrastructure – Promote planning and deployment of broadband infrastructure and increase access and quality to unserved and underserved communities, businesses, workforce, educators, and students.

Efficient and renewable energy and low cost power – Promote energy infrastructure to stabilize or reduce the long-term cost of power by increasing energy efficiency. Promote and support updating and modernization of our grid, as well as infrastructure that supplies low-cost power and renewable forms of energy.

Transportation infrastructure investments – Support transportation partners and investments in multi-modal forms of transportation, with a focus on improvements and transit that reduces vehicle miles traveled, improves public transit, and promotes active transportation. Assist airport staff with growing business connections flown to/from Bellingham International Airport.

Countywide wetland mitigation banks – Continue to support the development of public and private wetland mitigation bank(s) throughout Whatcom County, which are a necessity for all future infrastructure development.

Healthcare infrastructure investments – Explore opportunities for generating additional and varied healthcare services and facilities, including Tribal Health Clinics, throughout Whatcom County, with a focus on underserved and unserved communities.

3. Develop a skilled workforce, expand educational attainment, and align employer needs with educational programs and curriculum.

Skills alignment and information sharing – Inform workforce development partners about skills gaps identified through BR&E work completed in the county. Assist with the development and alignment of skills programs that match the needs of local employers and provides workers a living wage.

STEM program improvements – Promote and partner with post-secondary education, nonprofits, and the private sector in order to increase the number of students in local STEM programs, internships, and jobs.

Educational attainment improvements – Work with partner organizations and school districts to ensure as many Whatcom County high school students graduate as possible.

Retention of local talent – Work with partners to ensure that as many post-secondary graduates and highly experienced workers remain in Whatcom County as possible.

Post-secondary education expansion – Work with partners to fulfill strategic business and economic education needs. Support partners in their efforts to achieve Washington State Path to 70% of the population having some post-secondary credentials by 2030.

Work-based education and training – Support partners and businesses in providing paid opportunities for work-based education, including but not limited to paid apprenticeships, internships, placement opportunities, and on-the-job training programs.

4. Create a dynamic relationship between Whatcom County and Lower British Columbia, Skagit, Island, and San Juan Counties.

Create awareness – Promote and market economic opportunities, as well as the myriad natural beauty and recreational opportunities, in Whatcom County with data that supports continued responsible investment in the region.

Relationship building – Develop relationships with regional economic development agencies and neighboring associate development organizations (ADOS) in Skagit, Island, and San Juan Counties.

Border thinning – Promote and support the strategic efforts of the International Mobility Trade Corridor Program (IMTC), including but not limited to working towards an open US-Canadian border with short wait times and increased use of Trusted Traveler Programs. 

Cross border relations – Promote coordination between Whatcom County and British Columbia and develop strategic relationships with public and private Canadian partners.

5. Cultivate an economy that values diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.

DEI in BR&E work – Support and promote increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in BR&E efforts throughout Whatcom County.

Equal and fair access to resources and services – Promote and support equal and fair access to quality public, private, and nonprofit resources and services for all residents and businesses in Whatcom County.

Uplift excluded groups and businesses – Support and promote inclusion in regional economic development efforts as well as equity for all historically and geographically excluded groups and businesses in Whatcom County.

DEI metrics – Identify and develop DEI metrics that are relevant and important for economic development entities to track, collect, and analyze.

Safe Spaces – Work with public, private, and nonprofit partners to create safe and welcoming spaces for all types of businesses, workers, customers, and visitors.

6. Support countywide economic resiliency and recovery efforts.

Connect businesses to disaster tools and experts – Promote, support, and market local, state, and federal emergency management efforts to provide businesses, government, and nonprofits with disaster preparedness and climate resilience resources and tools.

Continuity of government – Advocate for the support of local governments in their recovery efforts from disasters and in preparation for climate resilience.

Economic and business relief and recovery funding – Advocate for relief and recovery dollars for businesses, communities, and households and support that redevelopment efforts are resilient.

Documentation and data – Support partner and business efforts to accurately document disaster-related business losses.

Resiliency and mitigation – Promote and support public and private partner efforts related to resiliency, mitigation, and climate change, as it relates to economic and business development.

Economic recovery planning – Participate in and support regional partner efforts geared towards economic recovery from disasters.