Port Townsend City Council joins other funders of Team Jefferson

Economic Development Council role renewed for two years

PORT TOWNSEND — After months of debate among local officials, the Port Townsend City Council has joined three other government agencies in a new collaborative role: Bolstering economic development across Jefferson County.

The City Council voted unanimously during its business meeting Monday night to provide added funding and guidance to EDC Team Jefferson, the county’s associate development organization (ADO).

It was the final entity to enter into an interlocal agreement already approved by the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, the Public Utilities District, the Port of Port Townsend and Team Jefferson; together, the parties seek to start fresh on the job of recruiting and retaining businesses.

Team Jefferson’s role in doing that has been renewed for another two years. Port commissioners and City Council members, however, have wondered aloud since last winter how to hold the organization accountable for any progress.

So the new agreement outlines a “public sector cabinet,” to include officials from each of the four entities, to help Team Jefferson staff “develop and modify work programs and economic development strategies,” along with recommending metrics to track and report that work.

The cabinet also can “monitor the effectiveness of EDC Team Jefferson’s economic development services,” according to the agreement.

All of this comes with money from each government entity. Jefferson County will provide $25,000 from July 1 through Dec. 31 while the Port of Port Townsend, the city and the PUD each will provide $15,000.

This July, the county will provide an additional $8,000 as a one-time supplement to fund expanded offices for Team Jefferson, so it can “grow as an organization as necessary to help businesses and the community to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The county, city, port and PUD will continue to furnish funding at similar levels through June 30, 2023.

“All payments are contingent on EDC Team Jefferson’s providing required reports,” the agreement notes.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro noted that the agreement has “out clauses,” so if things don’t go well in the next nine months, the parties can decide to try something else.

It’s “gutsy” on Team Jefferson’s part, Mauro added, to be prepared for “quite rigorous reporting requirements and a lot more steerage from public agencies.”

During the City Council meeting, members Ariel Speser and Pamela Adams both called themselves “perplexed” about what Team Jefferson has — or has not — accomplished in recent times.

Speser said that, for a long time, she’s wondered: “What do they really do?”

Port Townsend and Jefferson County are loaded with creative, entrepreneurial energy, she added, “but there’s no mechanism to harness it” for economic development.

Council member Amy Howard spoke up to emphasize that Team Jefferson has done considerable good in the community, shepherding entrepreneurs through business-planning classes and “Lean Thinking” workshops it offers. Board president Ben Bauermeister also has said Team Jefferson helped businesses seek pandemic relief funds.

Mauro, in an email to Peninsula Daily News, sought to set a can-do tone.

“I’m really excited about this new collaborative commitment to unlocking sustainable economic development,” he wrote.

The 36-page agreement “gives me confidence that we’re moving in the right direction.”

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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