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Sunnyside Inc. board eyes 2004

For members of the Sunnyside Inc. board, thoughts of the new year began long before the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31. Members of the board have been looking toward 2004 since the fall of 2003.

Executive Director of Sunnyside Inc. Marshal Doak said the board is currently halfway through the goal setting process for 2004, with goals expected to be ready for adoption by the end of January.

Doak said the goal setting process the board took on for 2004 is different than the process it went through last year. He explained when coming up with the 2003 goals the Inc. board put together a joint meeting including itself, as well as representatives from the Sunnyside City Council, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Sunnyside.

According to Doak, during the joint planning strategy meeting each of the organizations talked about what they would like to see happen in the coming year. Doak said he then took the results of that meeting and turned them into a written document, which Sunnyside Inc. proceeded to use as guidelines during 2003.

Doak said the Sunnyside Inc. board took the guidelines and used them as benchmarks throughout the year, giving a presentation to city council members in September as a way to show them what had been accomplished in the previous months.

"This year that aspect will be the same," Doak said.

However, the way those guidelines are created has changed for 2004. Doak said this past fall the Sunnyside Inc. board, instead of organizing a joint meeting with its various partners, sent informational letters out to groups like the Sunnyside City Council and the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. According to Doak, the letters stated the Inc. board was interested in their input for the coming year on topics such as what they would like to see Sunnyside Inc. accomplish in 2004.

"We want to make sure we're providing the service we're paid to do," Doak said.

He explained that this past fall the Sunnyside Inc. board came together to work on its own list of goals for the year, with members of the board taking part in break-out sessions to outline specific focus areas.

"Last year it was very open ended," Doak said. "They were more brainstorming sessions."

At this point in the process the Sunnyside Inc. board has shortened the list of goals for 2004 to six. Doak said the ultimate goal is to whittle that list down to five by the end of January.

The first focus area highlighted for 2004 is improving relationships and planning among everyone from Yakima County to the Sunnyside City Council. Doak pointed to the recent effort Sunnyside put into getting the Yakima County jail built in Sunnyside.

"We worked really hard to try to bring the jail down to the Lower Valley," Doak said, noting that he feels the idea is one community members are still interested in.

The second focus area identified involves taking a close look at the core issues surrounding economic development. Doak said the board wants to work to make Sunnyside a place to do business. This includes looking at ways to expedite the permit process, offering planning as an aid to businesses and perhaps assisting the Port of Sunnyside in marketing its property.

Doak said another idea that falls under this category is offering classes to local business owners in the Lower Valley. In fact, he said Sunnyside Inc. has taken the lead in trying to secure funding from the Rural Enterprise Community board to make the classes a reality.

"Retaining what you have is important," Doak said.

He explained the classes would include job training, entrepreneurial training and other topics of interest to local business owners.

The Sunnyside Inc. board also lists working with government groups and on different regulations as being a priority. Doak explained the board would like to be able to give input on legislative issues, as well as work with the city in its development of a comprehensive plan. He said the board's interest in working on the city's comprehensive plan has already been accepted.

Another issue the Inc. board would like to tackle during the coming year involves several "toolbox" issues, which are mainly internal items. For example, Doak said the Sunnyside Inc. website needs to be updated, some new software has to be put into place and he would like to see the addition of a sponsors' page to the website.

One of the final focus areas the board is interested in working on is community amenities.

"So much of economic development is subjective," Doak explained. "When people perceive that it's good, it is...it changes people's opinion of the area."

Doak said this is why beautification is important. One particular area he said the board is interested in tackling is the bike path that runs along Yakima Valley Highway, as well as the entrance into town.

Finally, Doak said the board would like to both become more involved in the community, as well as gain more community involvement. He said he feels it's important for Sunnyside Inc. to get out into the community and let people know that it is available and working for them.

Another issue that is important to Sunnyside Inc. is maintaining its own identity as an agency that is separate from groups like the City of Sunnyside and the Port of Sunnyside. This is one reason Sunnyside Inc. declined the city's offer earlier this fall to move into space at city hall, he said.

Doak said it's important for Sunnyside Inc. to try to remain distinguishable from the city. He said he doesn't want people to question when they are working with Sunnyside Inc. whether or not they are also working with the city.

Doak said he also questions whether or not the move would have actually saved the city any money. He said it was never specifically calculated out.

"If the Inc. board had its own way it would probably have its own location," Doak said, noting that that is the high dollar option, which is not highly doable.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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