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La Conner economy floats along

Is the La Conner economy like a log floating in the Swinomish Channel, carried by the tides, up or down channel as the tide rises and falls with no momentum except moon and wind? Sometimes the log travels for miles in a single day and over the course of days or weeks, maybe helped by the breeze or a favorable obstruction or beaching. The next rising tide continues its forward direction. If progress is measured in distance, then that log may have a phenomenally successful run.

Other times a log’s movement is held back for any of a host of reasons. Then its next movement in an ebb tide carries it back down the channel, perhaps past the Town of La Conner itself, so at the end of that tide’s cycle it might be below its original starting point. The next tide will carry it north and that day’s journey may be full of snags, extended beaches and boats and docks.

So the log goes, back and forth, up and down the channel until it jettisons out at one bay or the other or is pushed high on shore or taken home for a lawn ornament or once or twice a year lifted onto an Army Corps of Engineers snagboat and removed entirely from the ecosystem.

Does the La Conner economy have more direction than that? First Street businesses depend on the steady and periodically dependable flow of tourists from Seattle and to the south or Bellingham and Vancouver to the north. The relatively small grant amounts the town government provides to the chamber of commerce and arts organizations to promote activities surely attracts some here, though rain, wildfire smoke or stifling heat stops others from coming.

A La Conner Guitar Festival, parades down First Street on July 4 and down the channel the first Saturday in December and a few other discrete events change the quantity of visitors into town for a day or a weekend. In the Skagit, April is the bloomiest – not the cruelest – month, as the poet phrased it. Each event can be measured in the rise of dollars and cents into local cash registers and into the town’s sales tax coffers.

The Port of Skagit, the county and the state invest in marine businesses, assisting their growth. That is good for jobs, though sales tax proceeds accrue to the county where a boat buyer has it delivered.

The Swinomish Channel is dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a cyclical, periodic basis. That project maintains the channel at a specified depth. That is good for boat traffic and perhaps for logs as well. It may change the velocity at which logs moves more than it assists the rate boats pass through the channel.

La Conner, The Port of Skagit and Skagit County invest in their small steady ways to raise the level of this town’s – and the region’s – economy. Economic growth is a process, not a product. Monthly revenue totals rise and fall from prior months or prior years for many reasons. It is over time, from one tulip season to the next, from one summer’s tourists’ visits to the next, that comparisons can be made.

Over the past seven years, Town of La Conner revenues have increased annually with the exception of 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. The town government has been mostly conservative in its annual budget projections for end of year revenues but whether cautious or optimistic the number guessed at and actual receipts slowly rise by the end of each year as merchants, town officials and residents note the ebb and flow of visitors in and out of shops, hoping their kind words, wide smiles and advertising has people staying longer and spending more.

It is more of a wish than a plan, helped by the rising influx of people into the state and primarily the Seattle metropolitan area.


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