Economic council head upbeat on Jefferson commerce

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The region’s economic state is optimistic, according to a presentation given to the Jefferson County Commissioners on Monday.

“We are defined by our attitudes, and we are doers in this county. There are lots of signs of improvement,” said Economic Development Council Team Jefferson’s Executive Director Peter Quinn.

“I’ve been here since 2006, I rode it up and I rode it down, and I can tell you it feels a lot differently now.”

While EDC Team Jefferson won’t write a business plan for a new venture, they will help to identify the market and offer advice on how to succeed, Quinn said.

“We will teach people to fish,” he said.

Quinn said that in order to thrive, Jefferson County needs 1,000 additional incomes, and the key to this is to attract and grow the new business owners who will create jobs.

“You can argue about the creation of the [Public Utility District], whether it should have been done, but my personal belief is that it was a good thing because it created 25 jobs when there were only two for [Puget Sound Energy],” Quinn said.

“When we control something, we are going to pay more attention to it, do a better job of it. There are growing pains with everything, but we are better off now.”

Quinn said the installation of broadband, which is now in progress, gives the region “a chance to sell something that we didn’t have to sell before” and will provide an essential resource.

“Hollywood digital programmers who need to send huge files to their offices can come up here and send their kids to private school for $5,000 a year or they can stay in California and spend $55,000 a year,” Quinn said,

“Living up here seems to be a better idea for them.”

Quinn said the Fort Worden Public Development Authority, which takes over the campus portion of Fort Worden State Park on May 1, is another example of how local control leads to better results.

In addition to his EDC position, Quimper is chairman of the board of Quimper Mercantile Company and the owner of a downtown business, and speaking from that perspective, he said the downtown area is thriving.

“Downtown is doing very well, there are virtually no vacancies,” he said.

“It’s not just a shuffle. There are new businesses coming in, the hotels are having a good 18 months and those revenues are coming in very strongly.”

Quinn said that it was incorrect to identify Jefferson County as “a bunch of old people.”

“We are a vigorous, involved community,” he said.

“We are also regularly listed as one of the top 50 most fit communities in the country.”

Commissioner Phil Johnson, a 1964 Port Townsend High School graduate who has spent most of his life in the area, compared the current situation to 1972 when a lot of young people came to town with no real plans and built their own lives and careers.

“There was no work, but they figured out how to make a living,” Johnson said.

“Most of them are still here.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 14. 2014 5:57PM
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