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June 06, 2014

Why endeavor to develop our economy?

Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

John Powers

... the answer lies at the core of our purpose, passion, commitment to our communities' future.

"To Survive and Thrive!" This was the overarching collective response of the economic development leaders gathered at our alliance's recent board retreat when asked: "What's our intention as economic development leaders - what's the deeper purpose (the Big "Why") that is worthy of our best efforts to work together to develop our local and regional economy?"

The room was instantly abuzz with robust dialog as three dozen business and community leaders from Kitsap and our neighboring counties (Pierce, King and Snohomish) endeavored to answer this simple, yet seminal, question posited by our esteemed organizational development coach, Denise Thomson, Ed. D. Dr. Thomson, with deep roots in our community, was present to facilitate our annual planning session conducted via "World Café" protocols. This participatory format was well embraced by our board and did, in fact, yield answers with conviction.

One leader after another reiterated their common and primary purpose as economic development leaders was to challenge the status quo and forge a visionary course for their respective communities that would insure Kitsap, King, Snohomish and Pierce counties (the Seattle Region) "Survive and Thrive" in an ever increasingly competitive global economy.

Kitsap Bank CEO and KEDA board chair Steve Politakis opened the World Café by welcoming our regional guests (Jeff Lyon and Susan Suess from the Tacoma-Pierce EDB, David Allen and Suzanne Dale-Estes from the Seattle King County EDC, and Patrick Pierce from Snohomish County and program manager for the Central Puget Sound Economic Development District). Steve thanked his board peers for their dedicated service, in particular Scott Bosch, retiring CEO of Harrison Medical Center, for his distinguished leadership; and he shared a clear message regarding the value of collaborating on a regional basis to strengthen our collective economic competitiveness.

In the opening round of round café table talk, Jeff Lyon, CEO of Kidder Mathews and chair of the Tacoma-Pierce Economic Development Board, was among the first to articulate the clear purpose for why civic and business leaders band together to pursue economic development. As he spoke you could see the collective body nodding in affirmation of his answer: "We pursue economic development in order that our communities can survive and indeed thrive in a highly competitive global marketplace; we believe we alter the status quo, and influence the course of our economic future - we make a difference in building stronger communities."

As I listened to the ebb and flow of the conversations, I was reminded of Congressman Derek Kilmer's economic development mantra: "We must commit to competing with everyone, everywhere, everyday."

As the World Café drew to a close, I was grateful that Dr. Thomson had indeed focused our discussions on the most essential question facing any organization (private enterprise or public entity): "Why do you do what you do?" The answer was simple: "We do what we do because we believe we can challenge the status quo; and, in fact, create change for the better."

We all reaffirmed our belief in the old adage - if you're not moving forward, you're going backwards. As economic development leaders we don't simply have a plan; we have a dream, a dream for a healthier and more prosperous community, a dream that we pursue each and every day in collaboration with enthus-iasm and conviction. Dare to dream, it can make all the difference.

Thanks Doctor Denise for a thoroughly invigorating and inspirational World Café experience. On Kitsap!

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