PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners, satisfied by the diversity efforts of the nonprofit Economic Development Corporation, agreed Tuesday to move forward on giving the nonprofit $60,000 for 2018.
Commissioners Randy Johnson, Bill Peach and Mark Ozias — who agreed Tuesday to chair the board for a second straight year — expect to sign the contract with the EDC at their next regular meeting next Tuesday, Jan. 9.
Ozias had raised concerns that the all-male EDC board of directors lacked gender diversity, and Johnson had said the board needed to be more balanced geographically with members from the West End.
Ozias wrote a Dec. 1 letter to EDC board chair Doug Sellen praising the EDC’s direction but taking it to task for the absence of women on the board.
He reiterated that concern at a Dec. 18 commissioners’ meeting, when Johnson noted the lack of West End representatives.
The EDC board met Dec. 22, agreeing to increase the 15-member panel to 17 and create a five-person diversity committee that EDC Executive Director Bob Schroeter said Monday will consist of three women and two men to recruit board members with more diverse backgrounds.
Ozias, who had said his vote for EDC funding was contingent on progress the EDC board met in addressing his concerns, said Tuesday he likes the direction the EDC is taking.
“I’m happy with the EDC’s attention to diversity in all the aspects we talked about,” Ozias said. “I’m anxious to see them execute on that vision.”
Johnson thanked Schroeter “for understanding our concerns,” he said.
Schroeter said board diversity “was very much” on the board’s radar when Ozias wrote his letter.
“The question is, how do we get there,” Schroeter said. “We already have the wheels in motion.”
The diversity advisory committee will be named by the end of January, Schroeter added.
Ozias said a good time for updates on that effort will be during the quarterly reports that the EDC makes to the county commissioners and Port of Port Angeles commissioners.
When the EDC board met in November, its members discussed achieving “the important goals of some gender diversification,” board Vice-Chairman Jim McEntire said at the Dec. 18 EDC board meeting.
He cited the legal requirement of an associate development organization, defined as “a local economic development nonprofit corporation that is broadly representative of community interests,” according to state law.
He joked at the meeting, with some seriousness, he said later, that “we’re all middle-aged white guys on the board.”
There are seven upcoming board openings that include four occupied by members whose terms end, two newly created positions and a slot created by Schroeter who is leaving the board.
The port will contribute $40,000 to the EDC for 2018, up from the $30,000 the nonprofit received in 2016 and $30,000 in 2017, port Executive Director Karen Goschen said.
The EDC received $145,000 from Clallam County in 2017 that consisted of $125,000 in Opportunity Fund money and $20,000 from the general fund.
The Opportunity Fund, a 0.9 percent portion of the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax, supports infrastructure projects in economically-distressed rural counties and countywide economic development organizations such as EDCs.
The county gave the EDC $400,000 from 2015-17, including $125,000 in 2017.
The $60,000 that county commissioners are expected to approve Jan. 9 for the EDC in 2018 — which was already budgeted — consists of $30,000 from the Opportunity Fund and $30,000 from the general fund.
The EDC will receive $10,000 from the Opportunity Fund for administrative costs to process grant applications and convene Opportunity Fund board meetings.
The EDC’s duties do not include making recommendations on grants, county Administrator Jim Jones said later Tuesday.
“All they do is manage the process,” Jones said.
The remaining $20,000 in Opportunity Fund money to the EDC will pay for staff costs.
The $30,000 for the EDC from the general fund is for countywide economic development services, Jones said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Economic Development Corp. board of directors.