Economic Development in Tacoma with Ricardo Noguera from The City of Tacoma

hosted by
marguerite martin

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About This Episode

Ricardo Noguera is Tacoma's Economic Development Director. Originally from Queens, New York- he came to Tacoma by way of Visalia, California. In a very candid interview, Ricardo shares his thoughts about life in Tacoma, his vision for the future of the city, ideas for attracting economic development, and what he likes about living on Tacoma's West Slope.

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Show Notes

Ricardo says there are three main goals for an Economic Development Director: business retention, attraction, and expansion. "You're looking to grow the industry you have and grow jobs, and at the same time attract new industry and grow the economy... The goal is also to attract investment."

Developing Tacoma

"When I first came here that's what I looked at," says Ricardo. "I looked at who the key revenue generators are and the employers. So when I go into a community I identify whose generating the revenue and supporting the tax base, where the jobs are being created, and where are the services for the community." Ricardo shares how they work to attract new money into the community and grow the economy for the people who live and work here in Tacoma. He candidly shares what he sees as Tacoma's strengths and also what he sees as our challenges.

Commercial Development

One of the challenges Tacoma has in attracting new companies to downtown is our lack of class A office space. Since it costs the same to build a commercial building in Seattle or Bellevue as it does in Tacoma- but the rents are twice as high- Tacoma has had a challenge attracting developers to build new commercial space. Currently they're working with state to develop an tax incentive program. While it sometimes feels like we have a lot of vacant space downtown, there are actually a limited number of places someone could develop a skyscraper and new offices. Ricardo says he looks at all surface parking lots as a development opportunity. A big part of his focus is encouraging owners of those lots to develop those lots into street level retail with residential above.

Tech Firms

Ricardo thinks Tacoma is an ideal place for tech firms to relocate. Local firms like Cloud Power, Red Quarry, Acumula, and more already call Tacoma home. Creating a pipeline of students from the University of Washington Tacoma to support these businesses will help attract more to the area.

Development and Displacement

What does Ricardo say to locals who are worried that this development won't help them or will displace them? "A strong economy is a diverse economy," says Ricardo. "You want to have low income, middle class, and wealthy folks. We have thousands of jobs that go unfilled from Multicare, Fransiscan, JBLM... The whole goal there is to lift folks socioeconomics up." According to Ricardo, we don't just want to be a city with low housing costs and low incomes. His feeling is closing the gap in our skills and our education and what employers need will help improve life for everyone in Tacoma and get our unemployment rate down from above 6%. According to Ricardo, the people who live here have to be equipped to take on the jobs employers have to offer. This is a national challenge, not just a Tacoma challenge. That's where we bring in UWT, PLU, and Bates and other schools so that they are equipped to train the young people here in Tacoma to take on the jobs that are in most demand. Skills like coding, software development, medical, biotech, and even light industrial all bring in better wages and more stability. Many manufacturing jobs are not coming back, he says. Those jobs are going to go to robots. We need to train and educate young people to pursue careers that have longevity. He also says community members need to be intentional about mentoring youth and supporting their education.