By Mitchell Roland

Kent’s Chief Economic Development Officer Bill Ellis said the region is currently facing a K-shaped recovery from the economic downturn caused by the ongoing pandemic.

During Tuesday’s (Jan. 5, 2021) Kent City Council meeting, Ellis said trends observed before the pandemic has become heightened. Ellis cited data from Harvard University which shows while employment rates in the Seattle metropolitan area for those making over $60,000 a year have increased by 1.7% since Jan. 15, 2020, those making between $27,000 and $60,000 have decreased by 6.2%. The employment rate for those making under $27,000 has decreased by 18.1% in King County since Jan. 15.

“Seattle is, by some measures, underperforming other metropolitan areas,” Ellis said.

Ellis said right now, employment is too high, people are stuck in low paying jobs while also being shut out of high-quality jobs. Ellis said it is also difficult to start and grow new businesses right now. To combat this, Kent is working with both Green River College and Highline College’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to aid businesses. Ellis said both centers can assist small businesses with applying for aid from the federal government.

Despite the “doom and gloom of the economy,” Ellis said investments are still taking place in Kent, including at two properties that have been dormant for several years as well as at the Naden Assemblage.

“Things that we have long at as long-vacant in the city of Kent, for some time, are moving forward,” Ellis said.

According to King County tax records, healthcare company Kaiser Permanente has purchased the eight-acre lot where a K-Mart was previously located near Washington Ave N. and State Route 516. Ellis said it is currently unclear what Kaiser Permanente plans to do with the property, though he said it could be a “keystone project for the whole Meeker enterprise.”

Ellis said a medical facility in the Kent valley would affirm that Kent is a “mini capital in the south end” between Tacoma and Seattle.

“I think having a big medical facility at this location, with Kent Station and Acesso Showare Center and the Justice Center really starts to solidify that,” Ellis said.

Kaiser Permanente’s purchase does not include the nearby Goodwill or a portion of the lot to the south, Ellis said.

Progress has been made on land where there was formerly Joe’s Sport and Outdoors on Kent’s east hill. Saar’s Super Saver Food’s leased the land and is currently applying for mechanical permits, though Ellis said he did not have a date they would open.

Tentative Plans for a hotel in the Kent valley in an area referred to as the Naden Assemblage was mutually terminated, Ellis said. The planned hotel would have occupied two of the seven acres at the site. The city is currently exchanging language on a nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with developer Avenue 55, who Ellis said has “done some boutique and interesting things in the realm of flex-tech buildings.”

Any MOU or proposal from development by Avenue 55 would be subject to approval and passage by the Kent City Council. Kent’s Chief Economic Development Officer Bill Ellis said the region is currently facing a K-shaped recovery from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Scott Schaefer

Founder/Publisher/Editor. Three-time National Emmy Award winning Writer (“Bill Nye the Science Guy”), Director, Producer, Journalist and more...