PA United seeks economic development plan; 4 meetings planned in February, March

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Representatives of four business groups met Wednesday in an ad hoc effort to seek a unified strategy to spur economic development in Port Angeles, agreeing that the community has high expectations that their efforts will not fall flat.

“Grabbing the momentum is what it's about here,” meeting participant Todd Ortloff said. “People sense that.

“This is an opportune time to do something.

“Don't let it slip away by fumbling around with it.”

Informally calling themselves PA United, meeting participants agreed to collect information about business groups and other information on cities in Washington of comparable size and demographics and to meet four more times — next Wednesday, Feb. 19, March 5 and March 19 — at 3 p.m. at the Vern Burton Community Center meeting room.

“If we get done with five meetings and nothing has changed, we've wasted our time,” meeting participant Larry Hueth said.

A draft meeting-process outline prepared by facilitator Jim Haguewood includes discussing, over the course of subsequent meetings, developing a 2015 organizational budget, preparing “core goals” for 2020, devising a strategy to reach those goals and preparing bylaws, a charter or a combination of the two.

The final step, according to the draft meeting-process outline: “community presentation and press conference.”

There was no discussion of the fate of those groups represented by the participants at Wednesday's meeting or whether the new organization would add itself to the mix of existing business groups.

More than a dozen representatives of the organizations met Wednesday for two hours at the Vern Burton center.

Gathering around a large U-shaped collection of tables were members of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, Port Angeles Downtown Association, Port Angeles Business Association and The CEO Group — an informal, business-oriented, private monthly discussion group consisting of about 17 participants.

The following people participated in the discussion:

From the Chamber of Commerce was Union Bank branch manager and chamber Treasurer Shenna Straling, William Shore Memorial Pool Executive Director and chamber board member Steve Burke, chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema and Ortloff, chamber president and KONP station manager-announcer.

The downtown association was represented by Northwest Fudge and Confection owner and downtown association President Bob Lumens, Smugglers Landing owner and downtown association Vice President Rick Mathis, and downtown association Executive Director Barb Frederick.

Downtown association member Jacob Oppelt, owner of Next Door Gastropub, also participated.

From PABA was retired Wall Street investment analyst and board member George Bergner, State Farm Insurance owner and board member Ray Gruver, Mayflower Horticulture Services owner and program Chairman Andrew May, and organization vice president and former interim Clallam County Economic Development Council Executive Director Tim Smith.

The CEO Group was represented by Hueth, First Federal's president and CEO; Patrick Irwin of the Platt Irwin law firm; and The One Group's Haguewood, who facilitated the discussion and prepared the agenda and local and regional economic data for the participants.

The CEO Group “is interested in a facilitation role,” Haguewood said.

“At the end of the day, we should get a 25 percent increase in membership,” Haguewood said.

Participants decided not to add more groups to the ad hoc committee now.

“One of the reasons we started this discussion was to look at how the groups are funded, what they do, how they are staffed and is there a better way to give a return on their investment to members and to funding partners,” Veenema said.

“One hundred percent of the people, when they talk to me about it, say it's about time that the business groups are starting to have this discussion and follow the lead of what the private sector is doing on an organizational basis.

“They are essentially telling me it's about time that business groups are getting with the program.

“The way we are structured now doesn't work.”

Acting more in unison, “we could do a lot more for our community than separately,” added Straling.

City Councilwoman and former Mayor Cherie Kidd, who was sitting in the audience, said the amount of taxes for funding “overlapping” business organizations is dwindling.

“We have to look for efficiencies,” she added.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 30. 2014 8:03PM
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