I am proud that Thurston County focused its federal relief dollars externally, working with the Thurston Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council to direct more than $25 million to our local business community through the Thurston Strong coalition. These funds focused on small business support, workforce development, and childcare services --- the needs identified by community partners as most critical to long-term recovery.
Perhaps the most exciting stride forward in County economic development was preliminary approval of our Habitat Conservation Plan by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW), a 30-year plan that will allow property owners and developers to move projects forward without any “pocket-gopher delays”! Though the plan was completely stalled when I took office in 2019, by changing course and working cooperatively with USFW through the final details, we were able to cut the overall cost by 40% and get the plan to the finish line.
Other key initiatives include a significantly streamlined permitting process, a strengthened County apprenticeship program for large public works projects, an innovative agricultural business support program … and, of course, the transformative vote I cast as a member of the Intercity Transit Authority to transition to a “zero-fare” model for our local public transit system. Given that transportation constitutes as much as 28% of the budget of low-income workers, this policy change helps working families make ends meet while helping local employers deal with workforce shifts and labor shortages.
Thurston County's economy has survived the pandemic better than most. I am committed to continuing the collaborative work we have done with our local business community in the last three years to continue to make Thurston County a good place to do business.