An Interview with Mike Bomar
President of the Columbia River Economic Development Council
Mike Bomar has served as president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) since December 2013. Prior to joining CREDC, Mike served as the Executive Director of the Southwest Washington Contractors Association for three and a half years, and six years as the Director of Government Affairs for the Building Industry Association of Clark County. Mike currently sits on a number of professional and nonprofit organization boards, including the Washington Economic Development Association Board, Greater Portland Inc. Board, Clark County Skills Center Advisory Council, Washington Investment Board and the WSUV Chancellor’s Advisory Board. Mike holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs from Washington State University Vancouver and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communications from the University of Washington.
What is CREDC’s role in Business Development in Clark County?
Our work is defined in the Clark County Economic Development Plan, which lays out strategies for cluster development, talent cultivation, foreign direct investment, promoting land for jobs, and building a strong business environment. This translates to developing staff and partners that can assist local businesses with positioning themselves to grow, finding/building/importing the workforce they need, improving their processes, and locating the necessary space for them when they expand.
We have a full-time staff member dedicated to working with existing businesses to ensure they receive the best service possible in our community. We strive to be proactive in building a trusted relationship with our existing businesses so they feel comfortable contacting us, whether they are growing rapidly or going through struggles. We work closely with other organizations tasked with assisting the business community to ensure we establish the varying scenarios under which each organization is best suited to provide assistance.
The CREDC’s core strength is in serving traded sector businesses that are either rapidly expanding or experiencing significant challenges requiring outside assistance. We spend a lot of time matchmaking as well. Specifically, we refer businesses that are not in our core strength area to the organizations and resources best suited to serve them. In return, we also receive a number of referrals from those same organizations and others that have a clear understanding of why we’re the ones best positioned to help.
If you could send your local businesses a gift for Valentine’s Day, what would it be?
More than diamonds or chocolate, I would send each local company we work with a handwritten note letting them know how much they mean to our local economy and community. Each note would have a personalized message showing CREDC understands the unique qualities of the business and how we plan to specifically address their needs this year. I have found that most businesses’ love language is quality time. They love to know you are interested in their business and success, not just checking the “business visit” box.
What is your business development relationship status: Happily Married, Friend-zone, Love Triangle, or Left at the Alter?
I think most economic development professionals can appreciate that our status with businesses is “it’s complicated.” As a public/private partnership, we are always stuck somewhere between being an advocate for business and a tool for increasing tax revenues for our public partners. In order to combat the feeling of only being used for our resources and to ensure that we don’t offend our key stakeholders, we put a strong emphasis on follow-through and not promising more than we know we can deliver. We are aggressive in our approach to seeking out key businesses in our community and work to build trust through small deeds and positive referrals. Our hope is that when our businesses feel alone and scared, we’re the ones they think of first when they pick up the phone.
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