Part of the Puget Sound area, Kittitas County was hit hard by the 2008 recession. Like major metropolitan areas across the country, the heavily technology-dependent region saw a steep decline in economic activity as well as vital state funding. County leaders realized that traditional economic development activities centered on recruitment prospects were unlikely to yield results during a major economic recession. They understood an innovative approach was necessary—one that was responsive to the urgent need for a shared vision of the county’s economic future.
The Economic Development Group of Kittitas County (EDG) engaged TIP to prepare a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the county. The purpose of the plan was to help the EDG understand their competitive position and mobilize around a shared vision for the region. As part of the CEDS process, TIP gathered input from a broad cross-section of citizens and interest groups in the county. The resulting plan included strategies and actions for capitalizing on the county’s core economic development assets, including tourism and recreation, agriculture, Central Washington University, and alternative energy. It also presented a toolkit for conducting baseline activities such as business retention and expansion, business recruitment, marketing, professional services sector development, and talent development. Completion of the CEDS helped the county meet state requirements for associate economic development organizations and made the county eligible for additional federal economic development funding. Additionally, at TIP’s recommendation, the EDG and the county’s chambers of commerce pursued a formal merger to create a countywide chamber responsible for all economic and business development functions in Kittitas County. The purpose of the merger was to pool scarce resources and eliminate duplicative efforts.