Washington State has an extensive array of economic development resources. What’s needed, according to WSU Vice President for Economic Development and Extension John Gardner, is a better way to connect with them. So Gardner has started by developing an easy-to-use online map to those resources.
In his first year with WSU Gardner says he has discovered that the public sector in our state offers an amazing array of economic development resources to assist business, particularly small business, survive and thrive. What is lacking, he says, is any semblance of an organized system connecting those resources, or even an easy referral system to allow business owners to find the specific assistance they need.
“Small businesses comprise the majority of all business in the country, and here in Washington 55 percent of jobs are in the small business sector,” says Gardner. “Our job in economic development is to help people put their skills to work, but to do that we need ways to help business owners connect with the appropriate resources. All small businesses have different needs at different times and in different communities.”
To help provide a more coordinated structure, Gardner and his team have undertaken a thorough inventory of the resources available throughout the state. And to make it easy for a business owner to find the right resources in his or her community, Gardner has put much of the inventory into an easy-to-use online map (http://wsuwest.wsu.edu/map/ ).
Beneath a Google map of the state is a series of boxes that can be checked to display locations of the various resources on the map. As you run your cursor over each box a brief explanation pops up to tell you specifically what resources it will display on the map.
Want to find the nearest Small Business Development Center? Check the appropriate box and SBDC locations throughout the state appear on the map. Click on a location symbol on the map and you’ll get not only an address and phone number, but also an email link and URL for that facility.
The WSU Economic Development Partners map can help you locate WSU campuses, county extension offices and all other WSU facilities throughout the state. It also displays information for the state’s other public universities and community and technical colleges, offices of the state’s Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development and a wide array of other economic development agencies and resources.
Gardner says the map represents a first step toward connecting the dots of the state’s economic development tools and resources.
“We need for business owners and those of us working on economic development at all levels to be able to look at the galaxy of resources in the state and be able to see constellations rather than a sky full of random stars.”
Gardner says the map is a work in progress. His team continues to refine and expand its inventory of available resources, adding them to the map and improving the connections that it displays.
“What if we can take our inventory and divide and display the resources by function?” Gardner says. “Then business owners would be able to search it by their specific needs, whether its finding help in developing a business plan, launching a start-up, or finding financial assistance.”
You’ll find the map at http://wsuwest.wsu.edu/map/.