By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“Every time we talk to someone about who we are, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is that we’re old,” Economic Development Council Team Jefferson Executive Director Peter Quinn said to the gathering of about 40 people at the Elks Club.
“The bottom line is that 20,000 of us, including myself, are not 65 yet, which is like saying we are going to focus on 9,000 people at the expense of 20,000, and somehow that connotation is negative.
“We have a surge of young people in this community, and it’s visible. They tend to be technology focused, but they also have a craft focus which is the beauty of this reality.”
Quinn, 60, said that he once had to choose whether he was going to become a businessman or a poet and decided to become a businessman who wrote poetry, but these days the choices are less absolute.
“We have the capacity and abilities in this world to do the things we want to do,” he said.
“And we can tell people that they can work where they want to live.”
Quinn said that Port Townsend is often listed as one of the 50 most fit communities in the nation, characterizing the population as “vigorous” and “a community of doers.”
Quinn said this often translates into doing too much, evidenced by the fact that many residents, himself included, hold down two or more jobs.
“We are not where we need to be in order to be a thriving community,” he said.
“Many people have two jobs or three jobs, which shows how we need to find a way to survive so we can live here.”
Quinn said that some people fear negative effects of economic development, such as bad traffic and increased density, but that won’t happen any time soon.
“There’s a fear that we are going to get too developed, that we are going to need to put in four-lane highways, but we’re a long way from that,” he said.
“Obviously we need to be ecologically correct and build on purpose and not by accident, but there needs to be a lot of economical development we can absorb before we have any problems.”
Team Jefferson has been in existence since 2007, with Quinn at the helm since 2011.
He said the organization has a different model than some other local economic development agencies as it puts most if its energy into developing existing businesses rather than attracting new ones.
“Many agencies focus on recruitment, making it their job to get companies to relocate from out of state,” Quinn said,
“That fight for recruitment became a money tool, and the more money you shelled out, the more companies recruited, and that didn’t work as well as we expected it to be.”
Quinn said the development council’s mission is to create business owners.
“We want them to get better at what they are doing, and we want them to have a place they can come for wise counsel,” he said.
“We want to provide them the resources so they can purchase, lease space or grow their business.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.