Economic power of veterans and food trucks | Andy Hobbs

What do veterans and food trucks have in common? Both have the power to bolster Federal Way’s community pride and economy.

Let’s start with veterans. Next weekend, the second annual “Honoring Our Own” will pay tribute to military servicemen and women. Before the event’s creation, Federal Way lacked a true Veterans Day observance. Kudos to the Kiwanis and Historical Society of Federal Way for filling this cultural void.

Last year’s tribute was soaked in patriotism, history and respect. People of all ages packed the gym at Todd Beamer High School and learned from local veterans.

The establishment of this annual tradition marks a big step toward completing a bigger picture. In the past year, an idea has surfaced for a permanent veterans memorial in Federal Way. Aside from being an appreciated landmark for local veterans, a memorial has the potential to attract visitors to the city’s restaurants and businesses.

That’s why a memorial fits somewhere in the whole downtown economic development puzzle. A key piece to that puzzle is a public attraction that complements the proposed Crystal Palace and arts center projects. It can act as a backdrop for patriotic gatherings, or give visitors something else to do. The idea has gained enough traction to earn mention by Federal Way candidates during the fall campaign season. Let’s start a committee to hunt for grant money and make this idea a reality.

Speaking of enriching Federal Way’s culture and economy, here’s some genuine food for thought. A food truck festival fad is sprouting in several U.S. cities. For example, the Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta in Tampa, Fla., kicked off last week with a bunch of wheeled restaurants doling out everything from tacos to burgers to sandwiches. A few thousand people flocked to the monthly downtown festival and stood in long lines. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was inspired by the excitement he experienced at other food truck rallies around the country.

Apparently, some of the brick-and-mortar restaurants are upset about the mobile competition. At the very least, Tampa is creating an opportunity for growth.

“I want to brand Tampa as a hip, cool place to be and this is one way to do it,” Buckhorn told one news station. “They’re serving great food, they’re hiring people, they’re creating microbusinesses. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

In September, Seattle’s Mobile Food Rodeo featured trucks from across the Northwest. With food trucks ripe for picking in this region, Federal Way could explore a festival of its own.

Unlike the Seattle rodeo, Federal Way’s food truck festival should have free admission. Set up the trucks at one of the empty downtown lots, charge the vendors a fee and let them sell what they want. Encourage a range of affordable food options, promote the heck out of the festival and presto — residents and out-of-towners will come play in downtown Federal Way.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll stay a while.


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