PA United meeting brings Port Angeles business groups together to talk common functions

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Representatives of three city-based business groups met this week to discuss what they do well — and what they do in common — with the potential goal of merging some of those functions to stimulate economic development.

Informally calling themselves PA United, members of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, Port Angeles Business Association and Port Angeles Downtown Association met to describe how they serve their organizations and the community.

They gathered — for a second time, the first being Jan. 29 — for two hours Wednesday around a large, U-shaped table in a meeting room of the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center.

The discussion was facilitated by One Group LLC’s Jim Haguewood.

Members of the downtown association and Chamber of Commerce said they both market the area as a destination.

Both organizations also sponsor events. The chamber holds the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival every fall and Concerts on the Pier in the summer.

The chamber, which also runs the visitor center, and the business association also sponsor regular speakers, with the business association playing more of a political-advocacy role.

The three groups may discuss possibly merging some activities at their next meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Vern Burton Community Center and will meet again at the same time March 5.

“Events is a function that we need,” Haguewood said after the meeting.

“Do we have to have two people doing it?

“That would be a legitimate question.”

He expanded on that theme in an interview Thursday.

“We will be looking at some goal areas, and obviously marketing and promotion is one,” he said.

“Strategic categories of activities or functions are going to be identified.

“We have to identify what are those areas and what we want to accomplish.”

Asked whether PA United would remain as a group and meet after March 19, Haguewood said he never assumed the group was going to be or is an organization.

“Now it’s a name for the discussion,” Haguewood said.

Participants Wednesday from the Regional Chamber of Commerce were William Shore Memorial Pool executive director and chamber board member Steve Burke, chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema and chamber president and KONP station manager-announcer Todd Ortloff.

From the downtown association were Northwest Fudge and Confection owner and association President Bob Lumens, Smugglers Landing owner and association Vice President Rick Mathis, and Executive Director Barb Frederick.

From PABA were retired Wall Street investment analyst and board member George Bergner; Tim Smith, organization vice president and former interim Clallam County Economic Development Council executive director; and BRP Enterprises owner Ed Bedford.

Also at the table was Larry Hueth, First Federal’s vice president and CEO, who is a member of The CEO Group, an informal, business-oriented discussion group in which Haguewood also participates.

In discussing a definition of economic development, Smith called it “kind of a circular process that continually renews itself,” pointing to the downtown association’s beautification program as an example.

Bedford pointed to business retention, while Haguewood referred to it as the process of creating or retaining wealth.

Participants also discussed challenges and opportunities, at times drifting into challenges when discussing opportunities.

Challenges they cited included the city’s distance from a metropolitan area, an aging workforce that is declining in numbers, the government permitting process for development projects, the loss of the region’s traditional economic base, the city’s aging housing stock and downtown buildings that are in disrepair.

Year-round occupancy also needs to increase in the city’s lodging establishments, Veenema said.

Opportunities include a “quality of life” that encompasses the arts community, outdoor recreational opportunities and proximity to the ocean, Frederick said.

Also, there is a high level of computer connectivity for a rural area, which paves the way for telecommuting, Ortloff said.

Other pluses include the city’s role as a gateway to Victoria and Olympic National Park, Haguewood said.

Peninsula College President Luke Robins, who was among those in the audience Wednesday, said in an interview Thursday that the meeting was an important first step for talking about creating efficiencies and opportunities to collaborate.

Robins is planning a summit of countywide economic development groups with the county Economic Development Council and Washington State University Extension.

The merging of organizations is “going to be a natural outcome of the conversation going on now [with PA United] and would probably go on at a bigger summit meeting,” Robins said.

“Whether mergers or consolidations actually take place, that’s another thing.”

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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: February 06. 2014 7:07PM
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