The Washington State Department of Commerce earlier this year launched an online tool aimed at making it easier for manufacturers to get the regulatory information they need when considering whether to expand or locate in Sumner or unincorporated Pierce County.
The Regulatory Roadmap 2.0 portal builds on original manufacturing roadmaps created for the cities of Arlington, Lynnwood, and Marysville to provide preliminary high-level regulatory requirements designed to reduce costs, time, and errors in siting manufacturing projects, said Lynn Fetch, the Commerce Department’s manager for the program.
In addition to those pilot roadmaps, there was a pilot program with the City of Seattle on a Regulatory Roadmap for restaurant startups. Other restaurant roadmaps followed for Spokane and Spokane Valley, plus a worksheet for Tacoma. There also was a pilot Regulatory Roadmap with the City of Kennewick for residential construction.
After lessons learned from those roadmaps, “We realized that there was an opportunity to create a more efficient system that was more standardized in format,” Fetch said of fine-tuning the model for Regulatory Roadmap 2.0 for Sumner and unincorporated Pierce County.
The roadmap, with Tacoma expected to be added shortly, allows manufacturers to walk through the review of regulatory requirements interactively, including searching by location and property use, the Commerce Department said in a news release. Applicable zoning, high-level considerations and thresholds for different topics appear within the portal, streamlining the discovery phase of the selection, it said.
“We really were trying to provide those preliminary business-planning tools from the perspective of the business owner that incorporates all that multijurisdictional, multiagency information in one, single place so they didn’t have to go to a bunch of different websites, a bunch of different cities’ home pages to find the information they’re looking for,” Fetch said. “I think it was just critical for those businesses who are looking to site or expand in Washington but don’t actually know exactly where they need to be or want to be. So this is the perfect portal for that.”
The roadmap complements investpiercecounty.com, which is a place to start for businesses looking to do an industrial or commercial development in the county, said Rob Allen, senior economic development specialist at the Pierce County Economic Development Department.
“Once you get to the point where, ‘OK; I’ve identified some property, now I need to know what it’s going to take to actually do my development to get my project done’ — that’s kind of where the Regulatory Roadmap comes in,” he said. “The Regulatory Roadmap lets you find information on what is the process going to be like to get my project finished.”
The roadmap provides another tool in Pierce County’s effort to be transparent and make government processes easier to understand and navigate, Allen said.
“This is just one more in a series of efforts to try and provide information to make government not a mystery,” he said.
The development process can be hard, especially on a big, complex project, where there are many standards to be met, and rules and regulations to follow, which can be dizzying, he said.
“So this is just another effort to try and make it more manageable, more understandable, help people sort of manage expectations,” Allen said.
That’s a plus in the competitive world of picking manufacturing sites and standing out to site selectors and consultants.
“The ability to present information — to make sure that information that they don’t necessarily have available to them is easily accessible — really puts you a step ahead,” Allen said.
Site selectors who can’t easily find the information they need may not necessarily dig deeper to find it, he said.
“They’ll just move on to the next community where it is available,” Allen said.
The Commerce Department’s Fetch is excited about the potential to expand the roadmaps further, including in different sectors such as restaurants and residential construction.
“Our eventual goal is that this can be a tool that can be expanded throughout Washington state, not just in Pierce County but throughout other regions in our state that have a lot of manufacturing and economic development going on,” she said.
“I think for us as Department of Commerce, this is really an exciting program, because we want the message to our manufacturing community to be that Washington is open for business,” Fetch said of offering innovative online tools that are easy to access and understand.
“We’re here to help your business grow and expand, and so this is really that warm handshake to allow people to make better decisions for their siting or expansion efforts before they … start having those detailed conversations at the jurisdiction level.”
The portal can be found at fortress.wa.gov/com/roadmap/#/start.