Two regional consulting firms have begun a business marketing campaign that touts Klickitat County's willingness to "bend over backwards" to accommodate businesses.
The goal is to aggressively bring new businesses, and new jobs, to the county. Light industrial businesses were singled out as the county's "immediate target."
The consultants involved are "creativeTHINK," a Seattle-based public relations firm; and Shiels Obletz Johnson, Inc., a Portland-based "site marketing services" firm.
CreativeTHINK is under contract with Klickitat County to provide an identity that will help the county's economic fortunes.
"The key is, Klickitat County is part of a consortium, working with many Oregon and Washington counties to bring business to the Gorge," explained Lisa McCrummen of creativeTHINK.
In a Feb. 18 press release on behalf of the county, creativeTHINK explained that Klickitat County is taking "a disciplined approach to going after business to ensure that its rural residents have a vibrant future."
Called the "Rural Business Blueprint," the concept is described this way: "In these poor economic times, with many counties going after new businesses, what could Klickitat County, a rural area that's off the beaten business path, have to offer? Plenty," read an excerpt. "Klickitat County's strategy: Give them what they need. As key urban businesses are faced with traffic jams, government regulations, high taxes and the general high cost of business, they begin to look elsewhere. Klickitat County is ready, willing, and able to give these businesses what they need. Then, there's the `bend over backwards' factor ... But the real ace in the hole is what Klickitat County calls their `Business Friendly Overlay.'"
Dana Peck, director of Klickitat County Economic Development, said the efforts by creativeTHINK are having an impact.
"The element they have is to start getting us visibility," Peck said. "We just don't have people who think about relocating their businesses here. Portland is the key target market, and people living there don't think much farther east than the Troutdale mall area."
In 2002, Klickitat County partnered with the state of Washington and the Port of Klickitat approved a grant/loan package to construct a 25,000 square foot building to give Bingen's aerospace company, the Insitu Group, room to expand.
The county also recently invested $1 million in direct development of infrastructure in Dallesport, making water, sewer, road, and utilities improvements and creating a stormwater retention system for light industrial, site-ready property.
Peck explained that businesses often think about relocating about three to five years in advance of a move.
"We're trying to compress that time with our marketing schedule," he said. "The advantage we have now is, there is ground we can show them in Dallesport. It's a classic first impression situation. I don't have to tell them to call back in 36 months any more."
One prospective tenant for Dallesport is Huggy Bear's Cupboards, a Portland firm that is planning to relocate when it sells its existing property in Portland. It would employ 45.
CreativeTHINK started working for the county on May 27, 2003. From May 27-Dec. 31 of last year, the county paid the company $22,000 for its marketing services.
Shiels Obletz Johnson Inc. began working with the county on March 24, 2003. From March 24-Dec. 31 of last year, the firm was paid $5,000.
Although dollar figures were not immediately available, both companies have current (2004) contracts with Klickitat County.
Tom Fuller of Shiels Obletz Johnson praised the county's efforts.
"For Klickitat County to both figure out how to get government out of the way so businesses can get what they need and bend over backwards to be a partner in their success is very impressive," Fuller said.
Peck added that the bottom line is, the county is trying to make relocation easy for businesses.
"We have pulled together every bit of regulation we can so that we make it easy for businesses to do what they do best: be in business," Peck said. "This also means working one on one with businesses to walk them through any regulations that they do encounter."