Cowlitz (WA) Economic Development Council – Economic Development Strategic Plan

ChallengeCowlitz County, located in southwestern Washington along the Columbia River, has an economy with roots in the timber and shipping industries. From this foundation, the county built a larger manufacturing economy, which has struggled in recent years. As a result, the strength of natural resource-based companies, supported by a skilled workforce and favorable electric rates, was no longer a given. The Cowlitz Economic Development Council (CEDC) engaged TIP Strategies to prepare an economic development strategic plan. The purpose of the plan was to focus on business recruitment and to help the CEDC understand the county’s competitive position in the Pacific Northwest from a traditional economic development perspective.

ApproachA broad cross-section of citizens and interest groups informed the content for a strategic plan, along with comprehensive data analysis conducted by TIP. The CEDC staff and leadership guided the writing of this plan. Benchmarks reflected counties with similar issues, but with different philosophies for dealing with growth and with economic development. Based on this work, TIP and the CEDC assembled a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis for the county, which provided the foundation for the plan.

OutcomeThe strategies offered in the plan were structured to leverage both traditional and non-traditional targeted business sectors for Cowlitz County. These included smaller specialized manufacturing firms, expanding the local healthcare cluster, advanced logistics and distribution companies, and professional and technical service enterprises. TIP provided the CEDC specific recommendations to support these targets, such as improving existing industrial sites to make Cowlitz County more competitive within the region, as well as establishing an employment center with tech/flex space along the Interstate 5 corridor to attract investment from white collar employers. Moreover, TIP provided marketing strategies for the CEDC to guide its recruitment efforts, emphasizing target markets within the greater Portland region, as well as China, Japan, and South Korea. Finally, TIP assisted the CEDC and local allies in better understanding the importance of quality of place in attracting skilled talent to make the county more competitive with Portland and its northern suburbs.

TIP Contact Jon Roberts

Courtesy of Jason Weaver

Photo credit Cacophony