Executive Dammeier asked me to reminisce over my last 30 years at Pierce County as I’m preparing to retire. I’ve been doing a lot of that as I clean out files and turn projects over to various folks. I’ll start at the beginning . . .
One of the reasons I was hired was because Daisy Stallworth, then Director of the Department of Community and Economic Development, was impressed by my “apparent computer prowess.” I prepared my resume using Lotus 123 on a dot matrix printer and she was impressed with my use of technology. Daisy thought I would bring some process improvements to the loan program (which, by the way, was operated from a hand-written checkbook register).
Back then, Frederickson was a big field at the end of 2-lane Canyon Road. And ended at 192nd. The Port had started buying property 20 years before I was hired with a vision of locating industrial businesses there. The original purchase was $1.5 million; today the tax assessed value of the Frederickson industrial area real estate is about $900 million.
Back in 1988, the only business I remember being in Frederickson was a lumber mill complete with the conical sawdust handler reminiscent of days gone by. It was replaced by Harold LeMay Enterprises. Harold, coincidentally, was my client when I was a banker – the profession I left to join the County. I remember financing garbage trucks one-by-one. Little did I know back then that the late Harold’s fascination with anything with wheels would turn into the incredible collection he gave to our community!
We had hopes that Boeing would locate their world headquarters at Frederickson. That didn’t happen, of course, but we did get our largest manufacturing employer – not a bad consolation prize.
Other companies have come and gone over the years. One of the businesses that no longer exists was a company that painted weeds. (Painted weeds were cool decorating items in the 90’s!) I had the honor of working on the teams that brought Toray Composites, Medallion Foods, NW Door, Carlisle Building Products, Niagara Bottling, James Hardie Company, Oldcastle – and more — to Frederickson. There are more than 30 firms in Frederickson today employing about 5,000 folks. Maintaining land for industrial uses has been a constant priority over these past 30 years, and it remains so today.
A lot more has changed in the past 30 years. Chambers Bay didn’t exist – a big gravel mine did. Lakewood and University Place weren’t cities – they were “areas.” Rob Allen (my longest-term employee at 25 years) had a two-year-old when I hired him; Rob’s son has a son that age now! My IBM Selectric typewriter was replaced by a computer.
However, some things remain constant. When I was hired, Daisy told me economic development was about creating jobs and making Pierce County a better place for business. It still is. She said I needed to develop relationships in the community so we could partner. We still do. Economic development is a team sport, and we have great partnerships with agencies that support business and economic development.
For the past 30 years it has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Pierce County through the terms of five county executives! The most important constant in my career has been the Economic Development team. We’ve had very little turnover in 30 years, and I value each one of them for their commitment, skills, and abilities.
And, as I retire, I take the best part of Pierce County with me. I have made incredible friends, had amazing opportunities, and I’m proud of some important work we’ve done. And by the way, Pierce County gave me something else really important – I met my husband Dan when he worked here!
Aloha Pierce County, and thanks for the memories!
Denise Dyer, Director of Economic Development