It’s been exactly a year since an oversized truck knocked out a section of the Skagit River Bridge, an event nobody, of course, saw coming. During that year there have been other “disasters” both large and small in Washington that have affected the livability and prosperity of our communities. There is no way to clearly foresee the future or accurately expect the unexpected. But economic developers can advocate for and put into operation solid planning that minimizes the impact of disruptions, large and small and allow our citizens to remain safe, rapidly resume schedules in family, work and school and live with a resiliency and confidence about their daily lives.
That is the ideal. Unfortunately, extensive planning is not always possible and the unexpected is full of surprises. Thus, disasters usually create misery and heartbreak. Healthy optimism tells us “it can’t happen here,” that where we live is safe and rational and not going to shock us. But eventually things do happen and the complex infrastructure we take for granted and rely on every hour of the day experiences a sudden, painful failure. Economic developers need to understand the workings of their respective infrastructure and facilities—and once you start looking you realize how precarious modern life is and how lucky we are it works as well as it does—and insist upon detailed planning and adequate funding and maintenance. Leadership cannot prevent every unexpected disaster but through fairly simple preparations and broad collaboration it can successfully mitigate the consequence of disruptions and, perhaps most importantly, get a community healed and back on its feet more quickly.