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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 business 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 residents and communities.

In partnership with the private sector, local government should promote economic development by creating opportunities for a wide range of businesses, jobs, careers, and educational opportunities for all residents. 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 2050 sets the following overarching goal for the regional economy:

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

It goes on to state:

To create stable and lasting prosperity, VISION 2050 focuses on businesses, people, and places. Strong regional growth necessitates continuous coordination to ensure that the region’s quality of life remains an economic asset in the future. Success of the region’s economy is built on quality of life policies across VISION 2050 that manage the region’s growth, invest in transportation, protect the environment, enhance community assets, and provide housing options for the region’s residents. Economy policies in VISION 2050 build on these policies.

In 2017 Amazing Place was adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council, updating the Regional Economic Strategy for the Central Puget Sound Region. In the Regional Economic Strategy, three economic goals were identified for the region. Those goals are as follows:

Goal: Open economic opportunities to everyone.

Goal: Compete globally.

Goal: Sustain a high quality of life.24

In addition to setting goals and providing strategies to achieve those goals, Amazing Place identifies the following nine key export industries that the economic strategy is designed to support:


Business Services

Clean Technology

Information and Communication Technology

Life Sciences and Global Health

Logistics and International Trade


Military and Defense


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 2050. 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 2050.

Economic Development and Employment Goal

Cities, towns, and Snohomish County government will encourage coordinated, sustainable 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 2050 and the Regional Economic Strategy. Jurisdictions should utilize comprehensive plan policies, infrastructure investments, and regulations to support the existing and emerging industry clusters that play an important role in growing and sustaining Snohomish County’s economy.

ED-2The County and cities should foster an equitable business and regulatory environment that supports and encourages the establishment and growth of small and startup businesses, especially those that are woman- and minority-owned.

ED-3Jurisdictions should prioritize multi-modal transportation system linkages between growth centers, manufacturing/industrial centers, and residential areas to support economic development and improve access to a wide variety of job opportunities and employment.

ED-4State and federal economic development and transportation funding should be prioritized to regionally designated centers, countywide centers, high-capacity station areas with a station area plan, and other local 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-5Jurisdictions should promote economic and employment growth that creates a countywide economy that consists of a diverse range of living wage jobs for all of the county’s residents.

ED-6As a part of the overall countywide economic development strategy, jurisdictions should target economic development activities that improve access to economic opportunity for residents that historically have low and very low access to opportunity.

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 2050 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 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 should collaborate with businesses and organizations to develop economic development plan elements and analyze the land use designations, infrastructure and services needed to support businesses.

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 high-quality education and job training resources for all residents, such as a 4-year university or technical college in Snohomish County.

ED-12The County and cities should coordinate economic development plans and economic elements within comprehensive plans with transportation, housing, and land use policies, and the Regional Growth Strategy to support economic development that is compatible with each community.

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-15Jurisdictions should ensure that economic development sustains and respects the county’s natural environment and encourages the development of existing and emerging industries, technologies, and services that promote environmental sustainability, especially those addressing climate change and resilience.

ED-16The expeditious processing of development applications shall not result in the reduction of environmental and land use standards.

ED-17The County and cities shall support the Cascade Industrial Center as a Manufacturing/Industrial Center (MIC), recognizing that it is a major, existing regional employment area of intensive, concentrated manufacturing and industrial land uses.

ED-18Jurisdictions should identify the potential for physical, economic, and cultural displacement of existing locally owned, small businesses as a result of development or redevelopment and market pressure. Jurisdictions should consider a range of mitigation strategies to mitigate the impacts of displacement to the extent feasible.