Job creation is an ambiguous and complex subject, one that Tacoma has been trying to address for a long time. Everyone is talking about jobs. Politicians say they’ll fight for them, moms say they want them for their kids, and local businesses want to create them.
But how do we actually do that? How does Tacoma effectively market our beautiful city to the scads of businesses looking for a place to call home?
The answer is threefold: fix the broken permitting system, revive downtown and arm recruiters with vision.
Many may read this and wonder how a broken permitting system is preventing job recruitment. Here’s how: broken permitting process = frustrated brokers = no experiences for millennials = no jobs.
Everywhere I go I talk with business leaders experiencing a holdup in their permits. From restaurant owners to developers to general contractors, it’s the same story. Unfortunately, this leads to a lack of enthusiasm.
What we know is that the employee of the future wants to live in an inspiring space. They want to work in an urban environment where all the amenities are within walking distance. They want to leave their office for a break to have an experience — with their food, the environment and from gaining energy from other patrons.
They want an experience worthy of a hash tag.
Tacoma’s recruiters are working hard to bring these experiences into the city, only to run into roadblock after roadblock in the permitting process. Delays eat away at excitement. Excitement turns to frustration.
The result is they don’t talk to their clients about Tacoma anymore. So Tacoma misses out on masses of jobs for our residents. Let’s fix this process so we’re not dampening excitement.
Next, we need a revival for downtown. A few months ago I had the opportunity to sit down with a real estate director for Google. I asked him to shoulder my problem and brainstorm with me.
(This person in no way represents Google’s decisions and Google has no known intentions of coming to Tacoma.)
For an hour and a half we talked about what Tacoma could do to bring a large employer here. What I learned is it needs a buzz. Let’s fill up a syringe of creative energy and shoot it into those beautiful old buildings.
With the permitting system fixed, we can breathe new life into those spaces, not only creating the retail millennials desire but also the workspace they crave.
Downtown offers affordable real estate with expansive views. Tacoma can support it so let’s create it.
Lastly, we must adopt a unified vision. Tacoma already has a brand. It’s gritty and low-key, welcoming and lovely. Let’s capitalize on it.
I see a Tacoma where anyone who would like to start a business can because they have all the tools they need at their disposal. I see a Downtown Tacoma where a mechanic and a tech engineer can both have that #experienceworthsharing on their lunch break
I see the beautiful, accepting human spirit of Tacoma permeating downtown streets all hours of the day and night. I see success.
I want to challenge other business leaders to see the same Tacoma I see. And I challenge our city to improve its processes, working hand in hand with business. To all: arm yourselves with vision and belief. The impossible is possible.
We can do this. After all, we are #gritcity and #gritcitywins.
Mandy McGill is a Tacoma native and commercial real estate consultant. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.