There are two simple but important things every member of our community can (and I dare say should) do to maximize our economic vitality. The first is to support jobs and companies that sell goods and services outside the region. The second is to support local sector companies that maximize the amount of local products, employees, and vendors they use in their products or services. The former brings new dollars into our economy while the latter keeps those dollars here.
The Columbia River Economic Development Council generally focuses on traded sector companies as a strategy for providing the maximum amount of economic value for the work we do. A recent study from ECONorthwest further quantifies the value of the traded sector in our region, noting that these jobs, on average, pay higher wages, employ more full-time workers, and include more college graduates. For every traded sector job, 1.6 local jobs are created in the local sector. While trends for regional traded sector jobs have been shifting from goods to services, both are critical in maintaining a solid foundation for continued economic growth. But the story doesn't end there.
If you think about the Clark County economy as one of those spinning wishing well coin collectors (see the title picture), traded sector jobs are the new coins added to device. The total number of coins spinning at any moment is our economic vitality. Coins that come in and slide right down the hole don't do us much good (and aren't very entertaining). Those that spin around many times (local sector) as others are added (trade & tourism) add to a vibrant and growing economy. The more dollars we can bring in and the longer we can keep them circulating throughout local businesses, the better of we will be on a variety of economic health metrics. So whether you're an elected official, business leader, or coffee drinker, you have an important role to play in economic development.
Things you can do:
- Research the value and impact of trade in our region.
- Hire a local/regional contractor. (Shout out to my friends at the BIA and SWCA)
- Support "maker" programs and manufacturing related career pathways (not just for other people's kids). Clark College, WSUV, private education providers, and our K12 system are doing great work here!
- Buy local! This includes visiting your local farmers market as well as learning about local products and services available.
My intent is not to say that imports or non-local businesses are bad. They provide many of the conveniences and amenities that enhance our quality of life. However, by focusing our strategy and limited resources on buying local and improving traded sector activity, we are maximizing the individual and collective impact we can have. A strong economy is one in which each community member is mindful of the value of investing both globally and locally.