City poised for economic growth due to work of staff

Yarden Weidenfeld

I read with some confusion Bob Roegner’s column in the Sept. 15 edition of the Federal Way Mirror. In it, he describes a Federal Way that bears no resemblance to the one I have come to know over the past year at the mayor’s side.

Mayor Jim Ferrell was not “fixated” on Dick’s Drive-in. He is always looking for opportunities to bring new businesses, such as the just-opened Chick-fil-A, to Federal Way, but there was nothing special about his efforts to recruit Dick’s Drive-in that did not, unfortunately, pan out. New outlets that are opening include not only Chick-fil-A but also Mod Pizza at City Center Plaza, 85 Degree Celsius Café at Pavilion’s Center, Campesino’s at the former Albertson’s/Haggen site on 312th and Pacific Highway and a new Holiday Inn Express at the corner of 343rd and Pacific Highway. All of these developments were known, but left unmentioned, by Roegner.

As far as Amazon, there indeed have been some voices urging the mayor to have Federal Way be one of probably 100 cities applying for the opportunity to host the advertised second campus. However, after careful consideration and consultation with department heads and advisers, Mayor Ferrell has determined that he agrees with Roegner — pursuing this project would be a foolish and unrealistic waste of the city’s resources, better spent on bringing realistic and sustainable growth to our great city. Most importantly, IRG, the owner of the only Federal Way property where the second campus even conceivably could be located, was also consulted and offered that it would not be pursuing the Amazon opportunity because it too did not believe there was any chance the second campus would be located here. For more information, please contact the mayor’s office, and we would be happy to provide a full accounting of our analysis.

The new Performing Arts &Event Center will serve as a centerpiece of a new city downtown, along with Town Square Park, also a project spearheaded by Mayor Ferrell. What is remarkable is not that there remains $8 million to raise but that $24 million has already been raised by ribbon cutting. Due to the great work of Economic Development Director Tim Johnson, brought on board by Mayor Ferrell, these funds raised do include $2 million in new market tax credits, representing the first time a city in Washington has received such credits. The remaining $8 million will not be covered by a “tax increase” but by additional funds to be raised from naming rights and other sources. In addition to the jobs added from the PAEC itself, it will serve as a catalyst for the economic development of Federal Way, along with the development of a nearby hotel already in the works and the likely future development of space for office, ground-floor retail, restaurants and education/classrooms.

Since I have personally been coordinating the mayor’s efforts to bring a university campus to Federal Way, I can say that this project is bringing together the city, Federal Way Public Schools, Highline College and University of Washington-Tacoma to design a curriculum and find a location. There will be a temporary location followed by a permanent facility. It will take state funding, as Roegner indicates, but the nature of this project and the collaboration that is going into it will make a perfect case for that request.

I am not sure why insiders have told Roegner that City Hall was not involved with the DaVita’s decision to relocate a major facility here in Federal Way. With my office between that of Tim Johnson and Mayor Ferrell, I can say that City Hall was critically involved, as part of our (in Roegner’s mistaken opinion, non-existent) economic development strategy. From my perspective, Johnson has been working tirelessly on bringing new businesses here and is often here well into the evening. Mayor Ferrell made the right choice in bringing him on board — we are fortunate to have him. As a former assistant city manager in San Diego, Johnson is the “professional who understands how to strategically recruit and market” that Roegner claims we need.

The second half of Roegner’s column, despite some nit-picking at specific choices that have been made and a gratuitous reference to the long-ago dead “fish warehouse,” does contain some interesting ideas. Roegner also asks, “What is your vision for Federal Way?” This is a good question. City Hall is always looking for new ideas and is happy to hear and consider everyone’s thoughts. It would have been better if this sort of positive, creative idea-generation and questioning were the thrust of Roegner’s column instead of unwarranted negativity.

Yarden Weidenfeld is Federal Way’s senior policy adviser to the mayor. He can be reached at Yarden.Weidenfeld@cityoffederalway.com.

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