The City of Sunnyside and Port District agencies each share in economic development pursuits; they receive taxpayer monies to move binding interests forward with a goal of generating revenues which strengthen long term growth. The port’s success coupled with its leadership stability has created a powerful authority which rises above their city colleagues.

This earned, but elevated stature has led to a less than optimal, collaborative, working relationship between the two entities, signaling a tremendous divide in resources and expertise, potentially prohibiting a productive partnership from being fully developed. This type of relationship inequality doesn’t create or maximize the long-lasting, community benefits.

Governed by a three-member Port commission and administered by an executive director, the primary objective of the Port is to enhance the broad spectrum of economic development within the boundaries of the Port of Sunnyside.

The Port is organized to aggressively enhance the local economy by providing new and expanding business and industry access to industrial land, industrial infrastructure and assistance with funding sources.

This has led to the Port’s ability to take charge and advance business relationships and developments they consider worthy with limited input from city officials whose hands-off approach has been standard operating procedure for way too long.

There is no official liaison between the city and port. Economic development and job creation appear to be the port’s role within both jurisdictions. The city’s ongoing responsibilities in dealing with past budget failures has state auditors reviewing accounts for mismanagement by former administrators and working with staff to implement new financial strategies in moving forward.

City officials are making progress, but the revolving door of unstable, executive leadership and subsequent short-term practices has contributed to a demoralizing cycle. The cycle is composed of repairing then reestablishing and re-stabilizing reduced levels of municipal operations at the overall cost of economic progress.

A comprehensive shift is required to establish an effective and proactive relationship between the two organizations which proudly represent and serve Sunnyside residents.

The main goal of economic development should involve a shared vision between the city and port which improves the economic well-being of our community through collaborative efforts that entail job creation, job retention, tax base enhancements and quality of life pursuits.

The successful establishment of a shared economic development plan with corresponding goals and measurable objectives — properly prioritized and based on a reasonable view of the region’s strengths and capabilities — will result in a well-defined framework that will additionally attract and grow businesses to increase the number of jobs in the city.

One of the tricks in economic development is understanding there is no single definition, strategy, policy, or program for achieving success. It’s a complex endeavor that requires extensive collaboration between the public, private and non-profit sectors and agreed upon measurements.

The city and port have unique capabilities to spur economic development, but singular efforts alone will not produce the type of economy possible or desired. The involvement of local businesses, educational institutions and other organizations is equally essential.

Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com

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