Kent’s economy ‘still churning’ in spite of tough times

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Despite the economic slowdown

Despite the economic slowdown

As the economy throughout the state and the nation continues to restrict, the city of Kent is no exception. However, according to officials within the city, Kent still has many building projects in the pipeline and is still in decent shape, thanks to a diverse economy.

“Clearly Kent has seen the effects of the recession along with the rest of the Puget Sound,” said Ben Wolters, Economic Development Director for the city.

But despite the downturn and the seemingly daily announcement of new layoffs, Wolters said the diversity in Kent’s manufacturing sector allows the city to better weather the storm than some other municipalities.

“While the recession is hitting industries across the board ... we’re not beholden to one particular industry and that diversity in our business is helping us weather - at least for now - what the recession is bringing to the rest of the country,” Wolters said.

Kent has also experienced a few layoffs of late in its manufacturing and industrial sectors, including 85 workers at the Starbucks roasting facility late last year.

“We’re definitely seeing those effects,” he said of the layoffs.

According to Community Development Director Fred Satterstrom, the planning department has seen a drop in permits and applications since this time last year, but he was leery of comparing anything to the previous three years, which he called “the biggest building years ever in the history of Kent.”

But development started to fall off in the second half of 2008 as the economy began to sink. That said, however, Satterstrom said the city has more than $50 million worth of building projects in various stages of the approval process and awaiting building permits.

“We have a healthy amount of development that’s happening at the current time,” he said, but added that it is not like it was a year ago.

Aside from projects in various stages of planning, Satterstrom said several large projects were recently granted permits and should start to build soon.

Among the projects slated for construction are a 100-unit Hampton Inn hotel, to be built on South 212th Street near 64th Avenue South.

Satterstrom also said his department recently issued a permit for the renovation of the now-defunct Kent Skate Center by the Top Foods on East Hill on Southeast 260th Street.

According to Satterstrom, the renovations are a “major tenant improvement” that will result in 23,000 square feet of new retail space.

Satterstrom also said a $10 million multi-story mini-storage facility is slated for construction near 237th Street and Military Road on the city’s west side, as well as a pair of 50,000-square-foot commercial industrial buildings in the Aldarra Corporate park at 212th and the West Valley Highway.

Though no building permit has been issued for the Aldarra buildings, Satterstrom said he expects one to be issued in the near future.

Satterstrom also said residential building permits continue to be issued, though they too are down slightly from last year. Satterstrom said 12 permits were issued in January.

“It hasn’t fallen off the edge of the Earth,” he said of the number of housing projects. “They are still being built.”

Wolters remained positive about Kent’s economy, citing the opening of the new ShoWare Center as bringing additional business to the shops and restaurants downtown.

“They’re certainly appreciative of the new business,” Wolters said.

Wolters added the city is hoping for its share of the economic stimulus expected from the federal government, which would be used on infrastructure improvements that Wolters said would make the city “more attractive” to businesses.

He also said he is actively recruiting companies to the area and hopes to have a major manufacturing/warehouse deal locked up in time for Mayor Suzette Cooke’s State of the City address in March.

“What that tells me is while business is down across the board, the economy is still churning,” Wolters said. “Eventually this recession is going to turn around.”


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