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Economic Development and Employment

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A solid economic foundation is fundamental to our quality of life. Economic growth and activity provides jobs and income for our citizens, the goods and services that we use daily, and revenues that fund local government services and programs. Strengthening our businesses climate keeps our region competitive with other regions, and expands opportunities for new and better jobs as our population grows. Diversifying and expanding Snohomish County’s economic base will provide important long-term benefits to our citizens and communities.

Local government should promote economic development by creating opportunities for a wide range of businesses, jobs and careers, in partnership with the private sector. Through education and training programs, land use planning, construction permitting, and building infrastructure, local government “sets the table” for private investment and continued economic growth.

State Context

The Growth Management Act requires that Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs) include policies to promote economic development and employment (RCW 36.70A.210(3)(g)). It also requires local plans – which the CPPs guide – to include an economic development element (RCW 36.70A.070(7)).

Regional Context

VISION 2040 states the following “overarching goal” for economic development:

The region will have a prospering and sustainable regional economy by supporting businesses and job creation, investing in all people, sustaining environmental quality, and creating great central places, diverse communities, and high quality of life.

It goes on to state:

VISION 2040’s economic goals and policies promote a sustainable economy that creates and maintains a high standard of living and quality of life for all. To create stable and lasting prosperity, VISION 2040 focuses on businesses, people, and places, recognizing that growth management, transportation, economic, and environmental policies must be integrated, and must take social, economic, and environmental issues into account while preserving key regional assets.

In 2008, the Prosperity Partnership for the Puget Sound adopted a Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for the area that identifies 14 industrial clusters in the region’s economy. It also identifies the following seven clusters for strategic development:


Clean Technology

Information Technology

Life Sciences

Logistics and International Trade



Snohomish County Economy

The CPPs in this chapter are intended to promote economic development in Snohomish County consistent with the goals and policies of VISION 2040. Snohomish County is an important international center for the aerospace industry, and the home of the Boeing Company’s largest aircraft manufacturing complex. This county also accounts for about one-fourth of the biotech industry in the State of Washington. Looking into the future, economic development organizations have identified three industry clusters as the ultimate focus of Snohomish County. These three industry clusters are Aerospace, Life Sciences (Biotech and Medical Devices), and Technology Manufacturing.

To achieve sustainable economic vitality for all the communities of Snohomish County, jurisdictions are required to incorporate an economic development element in their comprehensive plans. Coordination of economic development planning with the other required elements of comprehensive plans is vital to attracting new business, promoting economic diversity and encouraging expansion and retention of existing businesses.

Snohomish County residents provide a skilled workforce for many businesses in both King and Snohomish counties. An important part of creating sustainable communities and improving the quality of life will be realized by creating more opportunities for residents of Snohomish County to work closer to home. The CPPs, as the framework for local comprehensive plans, support the integration of economic opportunities, transportation improvements, investments in education, protection of environmental quality, and focusing of growth in designated centers, consistent with the RGS in VISION 2040.

Economic Development and Employment Goal

Cities, towns, and Snohomish County government will encourage coordinated economic growth by building on the strengths of the county’s economic base and diversifying it through strategic investments in infrastructure, education and training, and sound management of land and natural resources.

ED-1The County and cities, through Snohomish County Tomorrow, should support the Regional Growth Strategy of VISION 2040 and the economic priorities of the Prosperity Partnership. While recognizing the need to accommodate other businesses and industries and to diversify our economy, jurisdictions should support the following industry clusters that play an important role in the health of Snohomish County’s economy, through our comprehensive plan policies, infrastructure investments and land use regulations:

a. Aerospace;

b. Technology;

c. Life sciences and healthcare;

d. International trade;

e. Military;

f. Tourism;

g. Agriculture; and

h. Education

ED-2The County and cities should encourage the establishment and growth of locally owned, small businesses through comprehensive plan policies, infrastructure investments, and fair and appropriate land use regulations in all communities.

ED-3Jurisdictions should prioritize multi-modal transportation system linkages between growth centers, manufacturing and industrial centers, and supporting residential areas containing an adequate supply of affordable housing (as appropriate).

ED-4State and federal economic development and transportation funding should be prioritized to regionally designated centers and sub-centers as well as transportation system linkages between regional growth centers, manufacturing industrial centers, and supporting residential areas containing an adequate supply of affordable housing.

ED-5The process for designating Manufacturing/Industrial Centers (MICs) shall be as follows:

a. A local jurisdiction may nominate an MIC;

b. An economic development subcommittee of Snohomish County Tomorrow (SCT) reviews the proposal for conformity with the criteria in ED-6;

c. If the MIC proposal is found to be appropriate, the SCT Steering Committee recommends the MIC for designation; and

d. The County Council holds a public hearing and makes the decision to seek designation of the MIC as a candidate center to be forwarded to the Puget Sound Regional Council for consideration.

ED-6Manufacturing/Industrial Centers (MICs) designated through the process in ED-5 shall be located in Urban Growth Areas (UGAs). MICs should have clearly defined geographic boundaries and develop in accordance with the general guidelines established in the VISION 2040 Regional Growth Strategy. Specifically, an MIC should meet the following criteria, it:

a. Consists of major, existing regional employment areas of intensive, concentrated manufacturing, industrial and high technology land uses, including – but not limited to – aviation facilities and services;

b. Provides capacity and planning for a minimum of 20,000 jobs;

c. Is located outside other designated centers but in a UGA;

d. Includes land uses that cannot easily be mixed at higher densities with other uses;

e. Is supported by adequate public facilities and service, including good access to the regional transportation system; and

f. Discourages retail and office uses unless they are supportive of the preferred uses in (a.).

ED-7The County and adjacent cities shall protect the Paine Field-Boeing area as a Manufacturing Industrial Center (MIC), recognizing that it is a major, existing regional employment area of intensive, concentrated manufacturing and industrial land uses, including aerospace, aircraft manufacturing and high-technology uses. Notwithstanding the VISION 2040 guidelines for MIC designation, land uses and zoning of Paine Field continue to be governed by the Snohomish County Airport Paine Field Master Plan and Snohomish County Zoning Code consistent with federal aviation policies and grant obligations. This MIC should:

a. Accommodate aerospace related employment and associated activities;

b. Accommodate employment which requires a high floor area to employee ratio but strive to increase the overall employment density in the manufacturing and industrial center;

c. Encourage a mix of uses which support and enhance manufacturing, aerospace and industrial centers; and

d. Be supported by adequate public facilities and services, including good access to the region's transportation system, which are essential to the success of the MIC.

ED-8Jurisdictions are encouraged to work with businesses and organizations to develop economic development plan elements and analyze the land use designations, infrastructure and services needed by business uses.

ED-9As appropriate, the County and cities should adopt plans, policies, and regulations that preserve designated industrial, commercial, agricultural, and resource land base for long-term regional economic benefit.

ED-10In their local comprehensive plans, jurisdictions shall include economic development policies consistent with existing or planned capital and utility facilities. These plans should identify and implement strategies to ensure timely development of needed facilities.

ED-11In cooperation with school districts, other education providers, and each other, jurisdictions should ensure the availability of sufficient land and services for future K-20 school needs, and support improved education and job training resources for all citizens, such as a 4-year university or technical college in Snohomish County.

ED-12The County and cities should coordinate economic plans with transportation, housing, and land use policies that support economic development and predictability for future growth.

ED-13Jurisdictions should recognize, where appropriate, the growth and development needs of businesses of local, regional, or statewide significance and ensure that local plans and regulations provide opportunity for the growth and continued success of such businesses.

ED-14The County and cities should promote an appropriate balance of jobs-to-housing to:

a. Support economic activity;

b. Encourage local economic opportunities and housing choice;

c. Improve mobility; and

d. Respond to the challenge of climate change.

ED-15The expeditious processing of development applications by the County and the cities shall not result in the lowering of environmental and land use standards.

ED-16In their comprehensive plans, the cities of Arlington and Marysville identify an industrial center spanning those two cities as a candidate for regional designation as a Manufacturing/Industrial Center (MIC). The proposed MIC is entirely within the urban growth area and predominantly within the city limits of Arlington and Marysville. Based on the recommendation of Snohomish County Tomorrow, developed through a collaborative and participatory process, the County identifies the proposed Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center as a candidate for regional designation as a Manufacturing/Industrial Center.