Hometown Congressman gets progress report on America’s Best Communities competition winning work plan

Oct 21, 2016 Issues: Jobs Labor and the Economy

The Arlington Times: Hometown Congressman gets progress report on America’s Best Communities competition winning work plan
By Douglas Buell

ARLINGTON – If you compare finalist Arlington-Darrington's quest to top the America's Best Communities competition to a football game, it's half-time.

But this is no time to rest.

As one of eight finalists in a competition that could bring up to $3 million in economic revitalization funding for the grand prize, team Arlington-Darrington has until April 17 to carry out 11 strategies aimed at addressing long-term socioeconomic challenges and significant economic disruption that occurred in the aftermath of the Highway 530 landslide.

ABC sponsors gave the cities $100,000 in seed money to turn those strategies into reality.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, met with Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert and members of the ABC team for a mid-competition progress report and walking tour of Olympic Avenue businesses in the town where the Congressman was born and raised.

The tour included stops at the Olympic Theater, a 1915 building with all-original materials that is now undergoing renovations; the city's pocket park to be located near Playa Bonita mexican restraurant with new Wi-Fi hotzone access; and a visit to Arlington Velo Sport bike shop.

Larsen said he was impressed by the level of engagement that has gone into the plan.

"Arlington-Darrington looks like they have a winning plan," he said, adding he will do all he can to give the work the visibility it deserves.

The ABC group of elected, community and business leaders has built its strategy around six key areas: Infrastructure, industries and employment, community and workforce development, resilience and sustainability, placemaking and rural innovation.

Here are the 11 projects in the works or completed that highlight the team's strategy for economic revitalization:

* Establish two Wi-Fi hotspots, with Arlington's located at a pocket park space near Playa Bonita.

* Makers Space is a plan for permanent space to site a fabrication lab and business incubator using innovative technology.

* Retail-focused consulting for businesses within the downtown retail centers of Arlington and Darrington to provide advice on merchandising and creative store layout.

* Youth Councils in each city to focus on issues of interest to youth leaders, engage them in the community planning process, and instill a sense of investment in their community.

* Funding for tools for Glacier Peak Institute with a goal to enhance opportunities for young people to engage in environmental risk assessment and restoration efforts, and monitor and restore ecological health of the Stilly Valley.

* Create small public spaces such as pocket and pop-up park in downtown Arlington and Darrington to encourage a more vibrant downtown economy and further add to curb appeal.

* Lead a Beautification Campaign using a public/private partnership approach to invest in small improvements to main street properties, with the goal to improve the community's aesthetic quality to stimulate economic growth, and enhance curb appeal to attract new businesses.

* Outdoor Adventure Tourism Plan to improve and market local recreational assets and tourism opportunity, and increase economic benefits of tourism.

* Tourism Studios – completed this goal to build a common vision for the future of the region's sustainable tourism economy, and improve and market local recreation assets and tourism opportunities.

* Tourism social media blitz

* Host a Remembrance Bike Ride set for March 19, 2017 to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the slide, honor the continued community connection, and celebrate ABC-related successes.

On the visit to Arlington Velo Sport, the owner was one of the businesses that benefited from retail-focused merchandising consulting provided through ABC funding. They took the advice of consultants, and have now put their repair shop in the window storefront to show activity, much like watching workers baking their goods through a bakery shop window. Velo Sport also rearranged their closing and bicycle areas to be more open, welcome and enticing to sidewalk browsers.

The top three ABC communities will receive a total of $6 million in prize money. Arlington and Darrington have joined forces to compete for the $3 million grand prize and are now working on carrying out 11 strategies to address long-term socio-economic challenges and the considerable economic disruption that occurred as a result of the landslide.