Olympia is fine-tuning the job description for the economic development director the city plans to hire later this year.
The position is intended to help the city adopt a sustainable budget, especially with an anticipated deficit that could reach $3 million by 2019.
"Economic development is one of the ways to look at increasing revenues in our city to help close that gap," said Keith Stahley, director of planning and community development, at a study session Tuesday with the Olympia City Council.
City staff presented job criteria for discussion at Tuesday’s study session. The new director would be responsible for retaining and expanding major employers such as the Olympia Auto Mall, Capital Mall, medical providers and state government.
The director would also focus on a downtown retail strategy as well as work with private investors for possible redevelopment partnerships for the Community Renewal Area. The latter is an economic development tool that gives the city more power to address downtown properties in poor condition.
"If downtown is not successful, it’s going to be really hard for the rest of our community to be successful," Stahley told the council.
The city has set aside $125,000 in the 2015 budget to fund the salary and benefits for the position. The goal is to hire the director by the summer.
Councilwoman Cheryl Selby noted that the new director must be good at building relationships and engaging a broad range of people, especially in the business community.
"We need someone who can work within a public paradigm, but totally understand the private sector," said Selby, who owns a small business in downtown Olympia. "There are lots of intangibles."
Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones said economic development means more than creating a healthy budget, but also making the city a more attractive place to live.
"Economic development provides career and entrepreneurial opportunities to our residents and their families," Jones said. "One of the most important things we can do is use all of our tools to improve quality of life for people here, which allows businesses to attract quality employees."
Also at Tuesday’s study session, city staff presented an action plan for implementing policies from the recently approved comprehensive plan, which outlines Olympia’s goals and vision for the next 20 years.
One main objective is to encourage public involvement in order to establish a "road map" for accomplishing goals in the comprehensive plan.
The comp plan targets policy language in areas such as projected population growth, zoning requirements, downtown revitalization, streets and alleys, speed limits, disaster preparedness, park maintenance, urban density and sea levels.