Business

Council reviews economic development strategy

Bellevue City Council is poised to adopt an economic development strategic plan that includes working to draw in more next gen tech companies, promoting citywide assets and strengthening its focus on tourism following a Monday review.

Staff and consultants working on the draft economic plan updated the council on its progress, seeking any changes ahead of future adoption. Much of the plan focuses on taking advantage of high tech firms already in Bellevue, strengthening their access to high speed broadband connectivity, increasing workforce housing and a greater higher education presence.

The city should focus on start-up tech firms, as well as midsized firms, said Brian Murphy, principal at BERK and Associates, with higher education geared toward generating more start-ups and providing existing tech firms with quality talent.

Capitalizing on Bellevue being a part of the "Pacific Rim," it will also be important for the city to strengthen its international relations and outreach with foreign investors, he said. The possibility of Bellevue acting as a consulate was briefly mentioned. Overseas recruitment of businesses and talent would likely require dedicated staffing, Murphy said.

There will also need to be more cost assumed to increase the city's economic development marketing campaign to support the strategic plan, which will include linking investors to investment opportunities in Bellevue. One facet of this will be leveraging the East Link light rail service — coming in 2023 — as an asset and addressing other transportation challenges.

"This was the number one comment from stakeholders we've spoken with; focus on transportation," said Natasha Fedo with BERK. "You will solve a lot of economic development challenges for Bellevue."

Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace said he wanted to hear about a greater focus on highways running through the city, considering increased travel that is estimated to occur on them as the population continues to grow.

While much of what the council heard Monday is already being done among city departments, Fedo said newer proposals include increasing the city's ability to work directly with businesses, streamlining permitting and inspection processes and seeking out attractive business districts outside of downtown. The Wilburton area is being strongly favored for this, as is workforce housing in the redeveloping Bel-Red corridor.

To take the economic development strategic plan to this "next level" of implementation will require a Budget One proposal for funding.

Mayor Claudia Balducci reflected on her trip to New York City with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's intercity study mission in her comments, and the business stance of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Boy, the business community liked Mayor Bloomberg," she said, adding what she learned from her trip is the importance of focusing on a few objectives at a time. "Our instinct is to add and add. I really like the idea of narrowing."

Making good investments for the city is important, she said, but so is demanding data that points to a return on those investments.

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