Klickitat County’s assets—which include relatively low tax rates, a desirable quality of life, scenic landscapes, and access to a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities—have long drawn people to the area. Portions of the county have become retirement destinations, translating to an above-average share of older residents and lower rates of labor force participation. The county’s aging population, coupled with an economy dependent on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, forestry, local government, and manufacturing, left Klickitat County struggling with high unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession.
The Klickitat Economic Development Authority (Klickitat EDA) engaged TIP Strategies to prepare a 10-year strategic plan that would address the county’s challenges and build on its assets. TIP worked closely with business, government, planning, economic development, workforce development, and education leaders to identify the area’s most promising opportunities for economic growth and diversification. These opportunities included leveraging the region’s strengths in the forest products, clean technology, wine, viticulture, and fruit processing industries. Priority strategies for supporting these sectors included preserving industrial and commercial sites; maintaining affordable residential real estate; and undertaking a concerted effort to develop, attract, and retain talent. To better position the county for future growth, the plan provided guidance to the Klickitat EDA in formalizing its business development, marketing, and entrepreneurship activities. Finally, the Klickitat County Economic Development Leadership group was established to implement the plan.