Opinion

Your belated 2012 economic forecast | Andy Hobbs

Last month, I attended the Federal Way Chamber’s annual economic forecast breakfast. Now I’m finally getting around to writing about it.

According to a handful of Washington’s economic experts, the forecast for 2012 is the same as 2011.

In other words, same stuff, different day: We need more manufacturing and stronger retail to create more jobs. We need to foster tourism and lure money-spending visitors to our hotels and restaurants. We need to do this and do that, etc. Everything benefits everything else, etc. Also, a lot of people are either broke or going broke.

I’m not trivializing the nation’s economic struggles. Far from it. I’d just rather write about actions being taken right now to heal the economy. That’s real news.

Speaking of which, Federal Way’s economy is banking on a few things in 2012.

In the Feb. 14 election, the school district needs voters to pass two levies. Most people seem to support the first levy, which covers basic operations in the schools.

Opponents of the second levy, which would rebuild Federal Way High School, can cherry-pick all the details they wish. All public discussion and pleas for financial accountability are worthwhile. No one wants to waste money. But you won’t satisfy all the people all the time. Show me a city that invests in the quality of its schools, and I’ll show you a city that’s moving forward.

Another biggie for Federal Way is the so-called Crystal Palace. The glassy business-residential-recreational complex is slated for one of those empty parking lots near the transit center.

The latest news: Federal Way is waiting for money from the Crystal Palace people. If this sounds familiar, it should. Once upon a time, there was a developer who wanted to build skyscrapers on that site. After months of delays and no money, the deal died.

The difference between the school levies and the Crystal Palace is the investor. The levies are an investment by the people of Federal Way. The palace’s fate will rely on investors outside of Federal Way. This project is considered a catalyst for downtown development. It has the potential to strengthen Federal Way’s economy. Will this courtship slip away and send the city back to square one? If past behavior helps predict future behavior, then it’s hard to stay optimistic.

Getting back to the economic forecast for 2012, those experts at the economic forecast breakfast shared some tasty food for thought:

• The nation may be crawling out of the recession, but at least we are moving.

• Washington is an expensive state in which to do business, mostly due to heavy regulations.

• All revenue sources in Washington have declined. Debt claims a larger share of the state’s economy.

• In this presidential election year, national politics tends to freeze progress in either direction.

• We have less control of our destiny than we’ve ever had as we go more global.

• Consumer confidence is slowly returning, but we face a lot of “unknowns” in 2012.

Consider that last point, as far as facing the unknown. The economy has rattled everyone’s standard of living, but the true suffering comes from the unknown because it’s out of our control.

In Federal Way, we can control our goals. We can blaze our own path toward those goals. We can even call out for help to reach those goals.

It doesn’t matter how we reach those goals, as long as we remember why we’re walking toward them.

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