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Federal Way mulls distribution of job creation money

A common question from Federal Way residents is, “Where are the good jobs?”

For a city of roughly 88,000 residents, many have difficulty finding jobs outside of the retail or service industries in Federal Way. Residents often commute to Seattle or Tacoma for well paying jobs.

With this in mind, the Federal Way City Council mulled over how to allocate approximately $723,000 of Community Economic Revitalization Funding (CERF) to help spark job creation and economic growth. Administrative services director Bryant Enge gave a presentation to the council Oct. 4 on how those funds can help bring businesses and employers into the city.

Enge had discussed five proposals during the council’s Sept. 20 meeting, and again touched on those proposals Oct. 4. Enge reviewed proposals from Orion Industries, Highline Community College, the South Sound Business Regional Incubator and Dynamic Family Services. City staff developed a matrix for reviewing the proposals, Enge said, and each proposal had a few uncertainties.

First up was Orion Industries, which was requesting funding to help with the acquisition of a larger facility because of an increased demand for jobs, Enge said.

“Right now, the project is not ready to proceed, Orion is still negotiating the terms and conditions of that purchase,” Enge said. “Its eligibility is still uncertain at this time.”

Two projects through Highline Community College also faced uncertainty because of their connection to the South Sound Regional Business Incubator (SSRBI), Enge said. That uncertainty applied to a project being proposed by the SSRBI itself, Enge said

Deputy Mayor Dini Duclos asked for clarification of the uncertainty around the SSRBI, which already receives $100,000 a year from the city.

“The rule is basically this: if the city has funded the program, then the city basically needs to continue to fund the program and then (Community Development Block Grant) dollars can be used for new programs over and beyond existing services,” Enge said.

In order for the business incubator to receive $100,000 in CDBG money, Enge said, “we would have to continue to give $100,000 that we had given it in 2011. It’s my understanding at this time, we have not budgeted that $100,000 in 2012 for the SSRBI. That’s where the uncertainty is.”

Mayor Skip Priest explained that the continued funding of SSRBI, and therefore any additional funding available through the CERF money, is contingent upon SSRBI developing a detailed plan, which the city had previously requested.

“Under the current budget, there is not $100,000 currently in the budget for that purpose. There is a small pot of money, approximately $150,000 that may be available for it and other uses. It has been our intention and our understanding… there are discussions ongoing in terms of their mission and how they hope to achieve that mission,” Priest said. “Before coming to the council, we are working with SSRBI to understand clearly, exactly, what their direction is as well as whether or not the council and the city can provide resources to be utilized in an effective manner.”

Enge said the final request came from Dynamic Family Services, which asked for funding to help revitalize a building in Burien. Because the service is not directly located in Federal Way, Enge said, that request failed the “accessibility” requirement the city used when looking at the proposals.

Because of all this, Enge said the human services department and city staff decided to sit on the money, for the time being, and break it up into a number of categories.

“The human services commission and staff recommend that CERF funding be allocated in three unique categories,” Enge said. “Economic development, micro-enterprise technical assistance and housing repair.”

The staff recommended $300,000 toward economic development, $100,000 toward micro-enterprise (small business) technical assistance, and $150,000 toward housing repair. That would leave $173,000 of “uncommitted” funds with a purpose yet to be determined, Enge said.

The council voted unanimously to accept the staff recommendation for CERF funding allocation.

Further discussion on the city’s involvement will take place at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Finance Economic Development Regional Affairs Council (FEDRAC) meeting in the Hylebos Conference Room at City Hall.

 

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