What's happening with plans for 'PA United'?

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Will there ever be a “PA United”?

Representatives from three business organizations will meet three times in the next month to discuss how they could be structured — whether jointly in some fashion or continuing as separate groups — in preparation for a final meeting April 29, when they hope to decide on a way forward.

A dozen members of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, Port Angeles Business Association and Port Angeles Downtown Association met in their fifth and penultimate meeting last week at the Port Angeles Senior Center to explore ways to reduce duplicative functions as they strive to generate economic development in the city.

Under the umbrella name PA United — which may or may not live on after April 29 — the business group members met to review goal and strategy statements and hear a presentation from Port Angeles lawyer Patrick Irwin on organizational options.

“You have to decide if you want to progress at all before we waste any more time,” Irwin told the group.

“If we are looking to change, you all have to figure out what kind of process you feel comfortable with.”

2020 goals

The group has established economic development goals with 2020 as a target date to fulfill them.

The goals for six years from now include having 2,000 businesses in Port Angeles and a population in “the greater Port Angeles region” of more than 38,000, with 23 percent between the ages of 25 and 44.

The group also envisions downtown Port Angeles being “a 24/7 neighborhood” and maintaining a 95 percent occupancy rate by 2020, with PA United remaining in existence “in 2015 and beyond,” according to a “strategy outline” distributed by group facilitator Jim Haguewood, the Clallam County economic development director from 2000-05 and former director of the failed Clallam County Business Incubator.

The options to meet those goals will be reviewed in three meetings in coming weeks by Todd Ortloff and Todd Gubler of the chamber, Andrew May and Ray Gruver of the business association, and Bob Lumens and Rick Mathis of the downtown association.

They will report back to the full PA United group during its last scheduled meeting at 3 p.m. April 29 at a place to be determined.

Options listed

Irwin suggested the groups examine the following options:

■ Stay as they are and, with the goal economic development, take the tasks they have developed and divide them among themselves.

■ Stay autonomous and have another entity such as a committee that could be the receiver of funds and evaluate the performance and accomplishments of the groups.

“At one end, they could periodically form committees to review how the groups are accomplishing the goals,” Irwin said Friday.

“At the other end, it would be more formalized, where there would be auditing of those goals and potentially receiving money from the city or whatever funding source they are receiving money from.”

■ One or two of the organizations would cease to exist and would merge into a third existing organization.

■ The three organizations would consolidate into one new organization.

In past meeting, members have discussed what tasks each group does best, such as tourism promotion and legislative advocacy.

City Councilwoman Sissi Bruch said at the meeting Wednesday that a goal should be “to marry some things together.”

Chamber board member Todd Gubler said under the existing three-group matrix, two have staffs and pay rent.

“I don't think this addresses how we get more bang for the buck, how the rest of the money can trickle down to what we want [to be] a thriving business community,” Gubler said.

“The only way to get there is less money tied up in bureaucracies.

“It's not getting down to where it needs to go.

“It's getting wasted on payroll.”

Nathan West, city community and economic development director, said PA United should address “efficiencies.”

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” West said.

“We only want to pay for it once.

“What is most important to us is that our businesses utilize their resources efficiently so they can survive and remain successful.

“One of the concerns that we would have if a fourth entity is created is that we are adding to the list of economic development entities out there.

“I can tell you, deciding on the number is a very important aspect of the decisions that are made.”

Who receives what

The chamber receives lodging-tax proceeds from the city.

The downtown association receives state funds that consists of city residents' public utility tax payments that would otherwise be owed to the state of Washington and state business and occupation tax credits, Lumens, the downtown association president, said Friday.

The Port Angeles Business Association does not receive public money.

Lumens said if the downtown association consolidated or merged with either of the groups, the organization would be disqualified from receiving the funds and also could not participate in the Main Street program.

The upcoming six-person meetings to examine options will not be open to the public despite objections raised by Dale Wilson, a business association member and publisher of Port o' Call, a free mailed newspaper.

In an exchange between Wilson and board members during which voices were raised, Wilson said that if a group receives public money, the meetings should be open to the public.

Haguewood said in a later interview that the groups are private organizations.

“Before anything happens, the organizations will have to vote on it anyway,” Haguewood said.

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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: March 29. 2014 11:11PM
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