An Interview with Troy McClelland
President & CEO of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County
When a tragedy shakes our confidence in the order of things, it’s vital for communities to come together. Economic developers play a very important role in dealing with the unthinkable and being proactive and reactive when disaster transforms their community. Troy McClelland, has been the President & CEO of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County since 2011. His broad business experience and demonstrated success ranges from leadership of small and large programs with both start-ups and a fortune 500 Company. His experience and understanding of how an economy works has helped him prepare for the leadership role he has taken in the 530 slide recovery plan.
What can economic developers do to make citizens take preventative action/prepare for a potential disaster?
The primary opportunity is to participate in creating viable long term, mutually supportive economic develop plans. A plan has been developed by EASC in partnership with local leadership and the community in the Stillaguamish Valley over the past three years and as such when this tragedy hit we as economic developers had a starting point to be of immediate and real service and as a trusted partner.
What are the priorities you established to get the community back to a growing economy?
Our first priority, not only as an as economic developer but also as a neighbor, is to care for the families that have lost loved ones in the tragedy. This is a compassionate community and even if we did not know those that died or were injured, we have bonded as a community to assist in any way we can with financial donations and other contributions.
Secondly, as an economic developer, it is important to take stock of the near, mid, and long term actions required to see a community fully recover and improve its long term outlook. For the Stillaguamish Valley we have partnered in a strategic manner:
Our near term actions include reviewing, validating and updating economic development planning through a series of community engagement meetings and working with other partners, local officials and the county on immediate projects to infuse energy and cash in the community. This includes promoting tourism by creating a regular drum beat of activities and letting the outside community know the Stillaguamish Valley is “open for business” through a targeted marketing campaign.
Our midterm activities include EASC applying for an EDA grant to verify and formalize economic development plans and advocate for upgrading critically weak infrastructure including transportation, rail and communication systems.
Finally our long term activities involve working on targeted business recruitment and expansion for businesses that benefit the entire Valley with high paying jobs.
What role can economic developers play after a disaster hits a community?
The most important role of the economic developer in situations like this is as a convener. An economic developer must know how to get things done quickly by bringing the right people to the table to respond to a myriad of vital conversations and questions that will be coming their way. In addition, the economic developer must know the assets of the community so we can respond to the critical resources that are required to be enhanced to assure long-term stability as a community. We must understand the current business health of the largest and most important employers to assure the community recovers and what do they need to survive and thrive. And finally, we must identify the business activity that can be undertaken to help those that are in need for a job or some other form of relief. EASC has been a convener, leader and key contributor on a myriad of issues that include transportation improvements and planning, zoning considerations, counsel to local leaders on what type of businesses are best suited for immediate growth in and or relocation to their region, counsel on long term economic recovery plans, and serving as contracting experts and partners with local agencies and community leaders.