Our Story

  • Our Story

As resource-based industries began to reduce their workforce in Whatcom County, the region realized that our community could not survive economically without a more diversified industry economy. With support from Whatcom County, the incorporated cities of Whatcom County, the major utility companies, and a representation from the business community, the Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Council (BWEDC) was formed in 1984. Organized as a private non-profit, the organization is dedicated to providing economic development services to Whatcom County. BWEDC’s primary mission is to enhance the employment base and improve the economy of our community.

It was at first believed that these objectives could be accomplished primarily by recruiting new businesses to the county. This singular approach proved not to be cost effective.

Resources for recruitment were being expended and the return on this investment was not keeping up with expectations. The organization’s partnership and its leadership began to question the long-term sustainability of a recruitment strategy. The question was asked if this was the best way to grow the region’s economy.

Responding to these concerns, the Board of Directors in 2002 embarked on a process to recreate the organization, and to implement a more balanced approach to economic development in our area. The outcome of this process provided BWEDC a new focus and a new mission. BWEDC’s vision for the future of Whatcom County is a community that has a stable and diverse economy; has the needed infrastructure in place; has an educated, trained, highly qualified workforce; and has a standard of living which allows residents to enjoy the region’s excellent quality of life. The organization’s contribution to this vision is to be the leader in developing economic partnerships among private, community and public groups that facilitate employment opportunities.

By emphasizing business retention as well as business expansion and enhancement, BWEDC hopes to make the region’s business climate more attractive to prospective companies that may be shopping for new locations. The economic development activities of the organization are no longer directed solely toward recruitment, and it is no longer focused on going after “the Big Recruitment”.

BWEDC provides a variety of services to the business community of the Whatcom County. Some of BWEDC’s business services include:
� Providing pertinent information by operating as a reliable and informed friend of business in Whatcom County who can make relevant connections, give sound guidance, and navigate the business start-up, expansion and/or the relocation process. Refer businesses to proper ED partner that will ensure the customer’s needs are met.
� Acting as the business ombudsman for firms seeking expansion and relocation assistance.
� Working with other agencies (State & Federal), such as Dept. of Ecology, Dept. of Labor and Industries, and various local government departments to resolve regulatory issues affecting business expansion or relocation.
� Providing direct assistance in locating sites and incentives for local businesses that are expanding or firms from out of the area considering relocation into Whatcom County.
� Providing assistance with incorporation, visa, customs, and other issues faced by international firms seeking a U.S. presence in Whatcom County.
� Operating a Revolving Loan Fund that works with the region’s commercial lenders to assist funding business expansions that may not meet traditional banking requirements.
� Administering Whatcom County’s Economic Development Investment Program that provides loans and grants for public infrastructure improvements to rural communities.
� Facilitating infrastructure improvement and other capacity building projects in Whatcom County communities that support creation of new employment opportunities or retain existing employment.
� Facilitating regional marketing efforts for new business attraction and being the first point of contact for business relocation or business expansion assistance.
� Facilitating implementation of workforce development programs to assist expanding or relocating business.

In addition to the above services, the EDC is the designated Area Development Organization (ADO), coordinating the State of Washington’s economic development programs and services in Whatcom County.

The EDC is an “enabler” – existing to link resources and render assistance in the interest of aiding existing local business to expand and prosper, and to encourage new business to locate to Whatcom County. In this context, our primary service is providing access to information. The EDC is in the information business, and our primary product is knowledge.
Clear answers to important business questions can be challening to find, and therefore a very valuable commodity. Our expertise is not necessarily in having all the answers, but in knowing where to find them.

Our role is facilitation. We do not create jobs. We help build the environment that enables other people to create jobs. In other words, the EDC provides linkages to resources that aid business to expand and prosper. The EDC is that “Business Resource of First Resort”.
The EDC is committed to providing professional economic development services to all of Whatcom County and to our regional business community.

Your EDC is the “Resource of First Resort” for business related information.