Resources for Businesses, Business District Org Structures, and more — Only in Seattle Peer Network Gatherings

On May 28, 2015, the Office of Economic Development (OED) hosted the second Business Retention and Expansion Partnership Peer Network Gathering. The first gathering in February focused on access to capital, and each of OED’s financing partners described how they are able to meet the various needs of business owners. While most of us agree that access to capital is one of, if not, the most important aspect to launching and growing a small business, technical assistance, resources, and support increase a business’ chances of long-term success. The good news is that OED’s experts are available to provide that technical assistance directly to businesses. Three experts from OED presented at the March Peer Network Gathering and shared how they are able to help.

IMG_0709Stephanie Gowing, Green Business Advocate, shared conservation services to help your business reduce utility bills, meet regulatory obligations, and lower operating costs. Also, Get on the Map is a unique opportunity for businesses to go green and receive free positive media attention at the same time. Coming soon is the Regional Green Business Program, a partnership with regional agencies to centralize resources, coordinate outreach and marketing, increase utilization for existing programs, and reward business’ environmental accomplishments. For more information, please contact Stephanie Gowing at or 206-684-3698.

James Kelly, Small Business Advocate, discussed the perils of construction for a small business. James’ responsibility is to establish a direct line of communication with business and property owners impacted by construction, provide businesses with connections to training and capacity building, and manage marketing and promotional campaigns for business districts impacted by construction. Given Seattle’s construction boom right now, James is in demand and always willing to help. As an example, James finds unique ways to partner with developers and private parking lots for additional parking for construction workers during times when construction reduces the amount of parking for local businesses. For inquires related to construction impacts to businesses, please contact James Kelly at or 206-684-8612.

Jennifer Tam, Restaurant Advocate, is the City’s main point of contact if you have any questions regarding your food business. Jennifer is here to help whether you are a restaurant, food cart, commercial kitchen, home-based food business, or anything in between. The Restaurant Success online portal is a good place to start if you have questions about starting or growing your food business. Jennifer can help with permitting, site-selection assistance, navigating the regulatory landscape, and more. Feel free to contact Jennifer for any questions you have at or 206-684-3436.

Through the Business Retention and Expansion partnership with local chambers of commerce, businesses can access support from these experts to help start, grow, or green their businesses. Check out the full presentation below.


Business District Organization Structures and Small Business Support

On April 30, business district leaders met over lunch at Big Chickie in Hillman City to talk shop. On the agenda was a topic that some business districts struggle with: What organizational structure is most successful and sustainable? While there is no right and easy answer for that, leaders stepped up to share successes and challenges of their own organizational structures, and how daily operations function. Rob Mohn of the Columbia City Business Association (CCBA) shared an overview of CCBA’s all-volunteer model and the evolution of the version that exists today. CCBA’s organizational structure relies heavily on volunteer hours from folks on four main committees: Goodwill, Marketing, Membership, and Business Development, and the public safety and cleanliness work is supported by the Business Improvement Area (BIA). A few keys to success from CCBA are: defining a reasonable geography, focusing on business district concerns and not overall neighborhood issues, and cultivating partnerships. Georgetown and Beacon Hill are similar in that they have paid staff, a 501(c)(3) designation, and rely on grants, sponsorship, and membership revenue to support events and existing programs. Challenges with both models seem to be sustainability and the amount of donated time by volunteers and board members in order to produce effective results. Continue reading the meeting notes for more information.

While a siesta was in order after the “pollo a la brasa,” folks were energized to talk about small business retention amidst all the growth and development pressures in Seattle. What can the City do to support small businesses better? What tools can OED offer and are there innovative tools that the City can adopt to support small businesses? While the concern was real, there were also potential solutions that were presented: Better access to technical assistance providers to support small business retention, and a handbook or resource guide to learn about what the City can do to help and how communities can access these resources were two ideas thrown out there. With that in mind, check out the following:

Some existing resources for communities to access:

  • Engage with the Design Review Board; DRB can convey community priorities to developers
  • Be an organized and proactive community, engage in local Land Use Review Committees
  • Explore Historic Districts and Landmark Preservation models
  • Find out if you are eligible for financing through Section 108 or New Markets Tax Credits
  • Access business technical assistance resources through the Business Retention and Expansion Partnership

Here are areas where the City can provide more assistance:

  • A guidebook for Department of Planning and Development to focus on the policy and review process
  • Engage in round table discussions with businesses and neighborhood planning
  • Retain affordable commercial space
  • Coordinate permitting processes to mitigate construction impacts on small businesses

Check out the meeting notes for more information. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to OED and we will be happy to help.

Special Events in Neighborhood Business Districts: Only in Seattle’s Peer Network Gathering

This month, the Only in Seattle Peer Network gathering dove deep into the world of special events in Seattle and neighborhood business districts. The Special Events Committee, chaired by Chris Swenson, walked through the current process for permitting a special event, talked about the benefits of special events in Seattle, and touched a bit on upcoming policy reform. Also, representatives from three neighborhood business districts presented brief case studies on the positive impacts of specific events in their neighborhood.

Special Events in Seattle

IMG_0458Kicking things off, Chris Swenson shared that in 2014 there were nearly 400 permitted special events compared to 20 in 1991 (that’s when the special events ordinance was adopted into what it is today). The City recognizes that special events build a sense of pride and place, support our creative culture, strengthen community engagement, and produce a positive economic impact for our city.  In other words, that level of growth over the last 24 years is a good thing. The different types of special events include: free public and community events (e.g. Lunar New Year), free speech events (e.g. MLK March), public commercial events (e.g. Red Bull Soapbox Derby), ticketed sporting and cultural events (e.g. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon), and promotional events. Chris also shared key information on when one needs a special events permit and teed up presentations from the following representatives of the Special Events Committee:

  • Kyle Griggs, Seattle Parks Department
  • Kate Leitch, Seattle Department of Transportation
  • Tom Heun, Seattle Fire Department
  • Henry Doan and Angelo Marfa, King County Public Health
  • Susan Blaker, Washington State Liquor Control Board
  • Karen Ko, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

Chris wrapped things up with a word about the special events reform process that is currently underway. The 1991 ordinance did a good job at attracting special events, and now needs a closer look at a cost recovery system, appropriate fee levels, process improvements and the City’s vision for special events. Neighborhood business districts were pleased to hear this information early on in the process, and Chris shared that the timeline for reaching out to organizations will be summer 2015, with potential reform ordained in early 2016.

Check out the full PowerPoint presentation below and contact information for representatives from the Special Events Committee.   [Read more…]

OED’s Financing Partners: Only in Seattle’s Peer Network Gathering Recap

IMG_0357The February 27, 2015 Peer Network Gathering began with a simple question: How important is access to capital for small businesses? As neighborhood business district leaders and small business owners introduced themselves, the response was clear that access to capital is one of, if not the, most important resources for small businesses to start and grow.

The City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development’s (OED) convened neighborhood business district organizations and OED’s financing partners to share resources and build relationships. OED’s financing partners that attended were:

Business District leaders representing 15 different neighborhoods were in attendance to discuss the unique benefits of each resource and how best to communicate or refer businesses to these resources. Lance Randall, Business Retention and Expansion Manager at OED, described the intent of the Grow Seattle partnership between the City and business organizations – to position the local organizations as “go to” experts for business technical assistance in the neighborhood. For more information on this program, please contact Lance Randall at and 206.733.9743.     [Read more…]

Learn about new financing options at February’s Peer Network Gathering

Join the financing staff of OED’s Business Retention and Expansion team and its partners on Friday, February 27 for a lunchtime workshop, and get to know get to know about financing options for local businesses needing access to capital. In addition to OED’s financing services, the following financing partners will be presenting: Community Capital Development, Craft3, Grow America Fund, Mercy Corps Northwest, and the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. Make sure you register today!

OED business resources can help you START|GROW|GREEN your business. Whether you are a start-up restaurant, a business impacted by construction or in need of financing, OED’s Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) team can help. Learn how to access the team and resources by attending the upcoming workshops. Upcoming workshop topics include: Greening your Business, Construction Mitigation Resources, Restaurant Success Services, Workforce Development, the City-wide Business Advocacy Team, Film and Special Events, and Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement.

ONLY IN SEATTLEThe Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Only in Seattle Initiative hosts monthly Peer Network gatherings to bring together leaders from business district organizations, chambers of commerce, and business associations to problem solve, learn best practices and new models, and nurture relationships. Peer Network gatherings can be workshops, trainings, presentations by community experts, or simply a lunchtime gathering to build relationships and discuss neighborhood priorities.

GROW SEATTLEThis year, OED’s Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) team will lead a series of Peer Network workshops focused on OED’s direct business services. These workshops are meant to provide neighborhood business district organizations with tools and resources to provide direct technical assistance to their neighborhood businesses. The Grow Seattle Partnership is a formal relationship with OED’s BRE team and local chambers, merchant associations, and business groups with the purpose of better serving local businesses in the neighborhood. Please contact Lance Randall, Business Retention and Expansion Manager, to become a partner (contact information below).

Visit the OIS Calendar for upcoming events and Peer Network gatherings.
Register for the February 27 Peer Network gathering today!

Contact Lance Randall for more information about OED’s Business Retention and Expansion Services:
Lance Randall
(206) 733.9743

Finding Good Market Data for Neighborhood Business Districts: Only in Seattle Peer Network Gathering October 9

On October 9, 2014, leaders from nine different neighborhood business districts gathered at the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) headquarters to learn more about data. Over the last few years, the Office of Economic Development (OED) has heard from many people that data training is one of the most useful and important Peer Network Gatherings. This year, we were fortunate that Linda Clark from the Census Bureau and Elliott Krivenko from the Downtown Seattle Association led the discussion about finding good data.

Linda discussed how to find good market data using the Census website. She went step-by-step through a hypothetical case study of how a toy store would use Census data to conduct market research in order to find the best location. The case, although focused on an individual business, could help business district organizations think through the metrics that are important to attract or retain businesses. Linda shared a packet with each attendee that contained do-it-yourself (DIY) exercises, a list of resources for finding good data, and information about social, economic and housing characteristics for Seattle and King County (email Mikel Davila to obtain a packet). Linda also shared a list describing the “50 Ways Census Data are Used,” which can be a helpful starting place since Census data can be daunting at times.

Check out Linda’s presentation slides below:

Next, Elliott dove deeper into individual neighborhood data profiles – OED contracted with DSA in 2014 to create the neighborhood profiles for Seattle’s business districts. Based on the DSA Downtown Economic Profile dashboard, Elliott chose four indicators for neighborhood level data: employment, number of firms, population, and retail and restaurant sales. Each of these indicators, if trending upwards, generally points to a healthy or healthier business district. Elliott also described the methodology behind the data and the data sources. In addition, there is a map located on each neighborhood profile that helps explain the area from which the data originates.

Check out Elliott’s presentation slides below:

Click here to view the Seattle data profile compiled by DSA.

Click here to view the combined Only in Seattle neighborhood data profile.

Individual neighborhood data profiles that are available are listed below. Please email Mikel Davila if you would like a pdf of the neighborhood profile.

Ballard, Beacon Hill, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Central Area, Chinatown/ID, Columbia City, First Hill, Fremont, Georgetown, Lake City, MLK Othello, Pioneer Square, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt, South Park, University District, Uptown, Wallingford, and West Seattle

Click here for the Peer Network meeting notes

Other helpful data sources for neighborhood business districts:

  1. The Department of Neighborhoods has compiled Census data for each defined region or neighborhood.
  2. The Department of Planning and Development has data that is broken down by the City’s definition of Urban Villages.
  3. OED also has a webpage of Seattle’s economic indicators, higher level statistics about Seattle’s overall economy.
  4. For more city-wide data, has information in the following categories: city business, community, education, finance, land base, permitting, public safety, and transportation. For example, with this data, you can find crime statistics by police precinct to inform public safety trends in your neighborhood.
  5. ESRI – OED has a subscription to ESRI until summer 2015. If you are interested in using this data source, please make your specific request to Elliott Krivenko.

Arts and Commercial District Revitalization: Only in Seattle Peer Network Gathering

On September 11, business district leaders from around Seattle gathered to talk art. Over 10 neighborhoods were represented in the audience as the Office of Arts and Culture’s Ruri Yampolsky kicked things off with a presentation focusing on the City’s Public Art program.

The program is designed to enhance the built environment, increase livability of the city, and create a sense of place and community.

The program does this through integrating art into the construction of a facility, designing art for a specific location, placing existing art throughout City facilities, providing short-term or temporary art or granting residency to an artist to develop art plans or artwork. A handful of City departments help fund this work. In addition, one percent of capital projects are eligible to be used for incorporating art. A useful tip for business districts: if there is a planned capital project in your community, lobby the capital department to consider the project a candidate for the one percent of art funding. Tools and resources were also shared to help think through the entire process of identifying, procuring, funding and installing art in your community.

Seattle Office of Arts and Culture Presentation

Beyond the Public Art program, how can organizations use art to enhance the vibrancy of the business district? Matt Richter helped explain cultural placemaking and a new toolkit for cultural districts that will be rolled out soon. Some examples of cultural placemaking are:

  • Right of way district identifiers
  • Wayfinding mechanisms
  • Busking
  • Art History Markers
  • Historic Preservation

Check out the presentation below for concrete examples. Overall, districts with rich cultural identities and a strong art presence are likely to be more attractive for businesses and residents.

Culural Placemaking Toolkit

The second presentation topic of the afternoon was requested by leaders in the August Peer Network Gathering. The Office of Economic Develompent’s Stephanie Gowing presented about the Business Retention and Expansion Program and touched on the benefits of partnership with business district organizations. The partnership with business district organizations will include a training and workshop to access all the services that are offered, as well as a toolkit to reference these services. This partnership provides an added benefit for business district organizations to provide to their members. More information is coming this fall. If you are interested in participating and want more information, please contact Stephanie Gowing at

Business Retention and Expansion Program

Check out the meeting notes for additional information.

Subscribe to the Only in Seattle Calendar for the complete schedule of upcoming Peer Network Gatherings.

Interested in the attending? Register here

Commercial Revitalization Learnings From March – August 2014: Only in Seattle Peer Network Gathering

On Thursday, August 14 Seattle’s Office of Economic Development hosted the third Peer Network Gathering in 2014. Peer Network Gatherings, a component of the Only in Seattle Initiative, bring together leaders from business district organizations, chambers of commerce, and business associations to talk about priorities in their neighborhood. The Only in Seattle Initiative is how the Office of Economic Development invests in neighborhood business districts to promote vibrant commercial corridors that are safe and inviting. In 2014, 19 neighborhoods received funding from the Only in Seattle Initiative and all are working on projects for their districts and promoting and supporting businesses and property owners through their work.

Peer Network Gatherings have three different formats:

  • Presentation or lecture style with an expert invited to speak on a certain topic;
  • Workshops or trainings geared to assist business district revitalization; and
  • A peer exchange where leaders in attendance discuss what is emerging and important.

In 2014, we have had at least one of each format. In March, a consultant from New York, Larisa Ortiz, held a workshop focused on commercial district revitalization that drilled down to specifics about classifying your business district, gathering data, and the developing a retail recruitment strategy.

OIS PNG Aug 2014In July, we focused on public safety in neighborhood business districts and invited Leslie Smith of the Alliance for Pioneer Square to talk about the recent organization of public health service providers, police, and social services agencies to help improve public safety in Pioneer Square. Don Blakeney of the Chinatown/International District BIA (CIDBIA) also spoke about the need for more collaboration and described the approaches that the CIDBIA has taken to improve public safety and the perception of public safety for visitors, residents, and business and property owners.

July 2014 Meeting Notes
Alliance for Pioneer Square – Public Safety Open House Model

In August, OED set the time and place and invited business district leaders to participate in an open-style conversation about emerging priorities in business districts. The event was well attended with over 15 people from 10 different neighborhoods that discussed major issues such as transportation, event coordination, property development, collaboration, communication across peers and more.

August 2014 Meeting notes

OED staff have heard the general consensus about Peer Network Gatherings is to, “keep having them!” They provide a method to learn best practices from other neighborhoods and problem solve specific commercial districts issues. Where do Peer Network Gatherings go from here? How can we continue to collaborate and create systems to complement the work that we are all doing individually? We are better as we work closer together, but that takes time and resources.

As we plan ahead for the September Peer Network Gathering focused on cultural place-making and hear from Office of Arts and Culture staff, how do we measure the precise value of these peer networks and expand on them? If you have any ideas to share or want to sit down and brainstorm, please contact Mikel Davila at

Subscribe to the Only in Seattle Calendar for the complete schedule of upcoming Peer Network Gatherings.

Interested in the attending? Register here

Only in Seattle Peer Network Event: Sept 24 – Filling Vacant Spaces with Storefronts Seattle

EVENT: Peer Network Event – Filling Vacant Spaces with Storefronts Seattle

DATE: Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Massive Monkees, 662 King St. Seattle, WA

The Only In Seattle Initiative invites you to learn about how Storefronts Seattle, a program of Shunpike, re-invigorated underused properties in Chinatown/ID.  Joyce Pisnanont from the SCIDpda community development agency and Anne Blackburn, Storefronts Manager, will lead the conversation from a neighborhood perspective and discuss the opportunities, challenges, and strategies around the Storefronts program. This is an ideal Peer Network for business/merchants associations, chambers of commerce, property owners, entrepreneurs and artists. You are welcome to bring your lunch to eat.  Drinks and light snacks will be provided


Contact: Beth Dufek, Impact Capital – 206-587-3200

More information about Storefronts Seattle:

More information about the Chinatown/ID neighborhood:

Only in Seattle Peer Network Event: Oct 22 – Demystifying Nonprofit Status- 501(c)3 vs. 501(c)6/ Won’t You Be, Please Won’t You Fiscal Sponsor?

EVENT: Peer Network Event – Demystifying Nonprofit Status- 501(c)3 vs. 501(c)6/ Won’t You Be, Please Won’t You Fiscal Sponsor?

DATE: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Beacon Hill (exact location TBD)

Learn from a tax attorney and a nonprofit financial consultant about how to ensure an organization is operating according to its mission and the IRS.  It will be fun, really.

Check back- more information and how to register will be added to this post

Contact: Beth Dufek, Impact Capital – 206-587-3200

Only in Seattle Peer Network Event: Nov 6 – Getting them to say YES: A story of Business Community Engagement

EVENT: Peer Network Event – Getting them to say YES: A story of Business Community Engagement

DATE: Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Pioneer Square (exact location TBD)

The Alliance for Pioneer Square will share how they invested their time and resources  in a major business engagement campaign  in Pioneer Square.

Check back- more information and how to register will be added to this post

Contact: Beth Dufek, Impact Capital – 206-587-3200