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Economic Development Commission

Economic Opportunity Task Force

An Economic Opportunity Task Force is convened to identify ways in which city government could support and enhance Seattle’s job base


In 2001, Seattle’s job base suffered blows both seismic and economic. In response, in the spring of 2002, Mayor Greg Nickels convened an Economic Opportunity Task Force of business, labor, community and education representatives to create a “to do” list that would identify ways city government can better help to support and enhance the city’s job base.

In their deliberations, task force members identified issues involving transportation, permitting, utility infrastructure and rates, land use and services – or lack of services -- for small businesses. They identified the need for new initiatives requiring cooperation between city government, the University of Washington and the Port of Seattle . They also suggested new approaches for assisting distressed neighborhoods and industrial areas, and they developed a wide range of ideas for ways that the city can help promote education and worker training, entrepreneurship, capital formation, and access to capital.


Key Recommendations

The Task Force report, entitled “ Seattle : Open for Business,” made the following key recommendations:

  • Support and campaign for the state transportation funding package set forth in Referendum 51, while working to ensure greater equity for Seattle .
  • Support the University of Washington and its capacity to generate new jobs and businesses.
  • Simplify land-use and zoning codes that have grown to more than 1,500 pages and inflate Seattle housing costs.
  • Work with the Port of Seattle to develop and implement a common vision for Seattle’s seaport that will enable the city to remain an international center for marine industries while accommodating new economic opportunities.
  • Change the way the city taxes technology businesses. Development of technology shouldn’t be treated as manufacturing because current development costs are not related to current income. Don’t create a disincentive for knowledge-based companies that can easily relocate.
  • Strive to maintain a utility rate structure that supports wealth-generating economic activities and create a new program to plan and fund basic utility infrastructure.
  • Focus economic development programs on distressed business districts and develop new partnerships with other governments to serve the city’s designated industrial areas.
  • Boost the city’s small business base by improving customer service programs, creating ombudsmen or “troubleshooter” services for businesses experiencing problems with government. Also, help small businesses to address their parking problems.
  • Be a regional advocate for work force development, training and apprenticeship programs. These programs empower people to improve their work skills. The Mayor of Seattle, working with Seattle and neighboring Community College presidents, should be their public champion.
  • Market Seattle as a city that helps businesses to succeed. Work with other governments and agencies in the region to develop a “Seattle: Open for Business” program aimed at attracting companies that pay family-wage jobs, as well as supporting tourism, conventions, music and film making, and other businesses.
  • Develop an interdepartmental economic development strategy that makes the retention and growth of “family-wage” jobs and an increased tax base primary objectives for city government. The strategy should account for all city departments. It should include a public-private plan to spur capital formation and entrepreneurship. It should also help to create stronger links between workforce development programs and the needs of family-wage employment sectors.

Task force members would work with the City to help implement these recommendations and quarterly meetings with the Mayor would provide opportunities to discuss progress.



Since the report was published, considerable progress has been made on several key issues.


Mayor Greg Nickels announces One-Year Report Card on efforts to improve economy, add jobsresponds to Economic Opportunity Task Force Recommendations

        One-Year Report Card Press Release (Word format)

        One-Year Report Card (PDF format)
        June 12, 2003


Mayor reconvenes Task Force to help continue economic growth

      Three Year Report press release, June 28, 2005 (PDF file size 36 KB)

      Three Year Report Card (PDF file size 1,000 KB)
      June 28, 2005


Mayor’s Economic Opportunity Task Force releases recommendations to continue economic growth

      Press Release (PDF file size 29 KB)
      January 19, 2006


Report from the Mayor's Economic Opportunity Task Force (EOTF)

The Mayor's Response to the EOTF Report -
Mayor Nickels Strategy for Building a Stronger Economy

  1. Focus on the basics - (regional and local transportation, including signs, street maintenance, public services, broadband communication services and neighborhood business districts).
  2. Make it easier to do business In Seattle - Make it easier and faster to get city permits; simplify and streamline the city's land use code; improve customer service.
  3. Be strategic and pro-active so that Seattle remains competitive
  4. Make sure no one is left behind

Economic Development in Seattle (from the Mayor’s website) -

July 30, 2002 Press Coverage ( Seattle Times)
On Seattle task force's 'to do' list: speeding up business permits

By Jim Brunner, Seattle Times staff reporter

July 30, 2002 Press Coverage ( Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Nickels turns his attention to business
By Phuong Cat Le, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter