CREDC backs new economic plan, C-Tran tax measure

Nonprofit promotes employment growth

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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A new plan to boost Clark County’s economy and a sales tax measure aimed at shoring up the region’s bus service each received endorsements Thursday from the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

The board of the Vancouver-based nonprofit, which promotes job creation and recruits businesses, voted unanimously to approve the Clark County Economic Development Plan.

The 128-page plan, written by Austin, Texas-based consulting firm TIP Strategies, calls for a new era of prosperity built on employment growth in information technology, health care and international trade.

The plan, commissioned by the Columbia River Economic Development Council for $80,000, is the first complete review of the Clark County economy since 2001.

Diane Dempcy, manager of communications and investor relations for the CREDC, said the board’s approval of the plan is significant because it means economic development leaders, including local governments, ports and private companies, are on the same page. “They have agreed this is the framework for the next rendition of economic development in the county,” Dempcy said. “That’s an important endorsement for us.”

The plan recommends numerous actions to improve Clark County’s economy. One of those is to develop a business-oriented research park, assigning Washington State University Vancouver and the Columbia River Economic Development Council — among other agencies — to the task.

Dempcy said the next steps are for the county’s government and business leaders to tackle those recommendations. “We’re going to be working with stakeholders to identify what we can start to look at and what to take on in the next one to three years,” she said.

In a news release, Mark Lampton, a Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner and a member of both the CREDC board and of the newly created Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, said the plan “provides a new spirit of collaboration” in the county. Lampton said the east Clark County economic development association “looks forward to working closely with the CREDC and other jurisdictions to realize a new direction for economic growth.”

C-Tran endorsement

On Thursday, the organization’s board also voted to support Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot. The measure would raise C-Tran’s local sales tax rate by 0.2 of a percentage point, to 0.7 percent. That would translate to an extra 2 cents on every $10 purchase for consumers.

The tax hike would raise an additional $8 million to $9 million to keep existing bus service intact, along with the federally required C-Van service for disabled riders.

Three CREDC board members abstained from the vote, Dempcy said. They were Tim Schauer, president of the Vancouver engineering firm MacKay & Sposito Inc.; Jeff Hamm, executive director of C-Tran; and Kelly Sills, economic development manager for Clark County. Those who did vote were unanimous in backing the C-Tran measure, Dempcy said.

The vote came after board members listened to pro- and anti-Proposition 1 presentations.

Heather Stuart, treasurer of Keep Clark County Moving, a political action committee that’s campaigning for the measure, and John White, vice president of BergerABAM, presented their case for supporting Proposition 1.

Larry Patella, owner of Lorenzo’s coffee in Vancouver and a frequent critic of local government, delivered the opposing argument.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council comprises 125 members representing the private and public sectors.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com