Story, photos and video by Scott Schaefer
On Thursday, Mar. 2, 2023, the Kent Chamber of Commerce held a membership luncheon featuring Mayor Dana Ralph, who presented her “State of the City 2023: Business Edition” update.
Ralph spoke to local business people for an hour at the Green River campus in Kent, giving a customized version of the speech she’ll present on Tuesday night, Mar. 14 at Kent-Meridian High School (more info here).
“Kent is growing,” Ralph said. “Our business community is growing, availability of space is growing. The space industry is growing…”
Ralph also focused on public safety.
“What keeps me up at night is…honestly right now, community safety, right?” Ralph said. “How are we taking care of our community? And I will tell you, this is not the only reason – but it’s personal. I live here. My kids live here. My kids are victims of crime. So I feel like as your Mom, I’m not taking care of you, and as your Mayor, I’m not taking care of you. That’s what keeps me up at night, is wanting to keep my community safe.”
Police Chief Rafael Padilla also spoke, and announced that the department’s bike unit will be returning soon.
“Our bike unit was the major tool engaging services that those (homeless) around here needed,” Padilla said. “Now you guys have heard me rant about how we’ll go 10-15 times to make contact with someone and a lot of times they don’t take services. What I want to provide for you, and what the mayor wants to provide for you is a visible presence that makes it feel and seem safer…”
He also spoke about homelessness.
“I think one of the reasons why it’s grown is our drug laws are allowing people and I this is what I am hearing directly from people that are living in camps,” Padilla said. “Not all homelessness is related to drugs. They’ve got mental health issues, and then sometimes it just really is about it building. People shouldn’t be living in a wetland. They shouldn’t be living in a park. They should be living in some kind of shelter. So we at the city in an in an effort to address this again about the same time towards the end of last year implemented some some new ordinances around allowing our police officers to get people out of those critical areas.”
Some of the other highlights of Ralph’s speech included:
- Public safety is top of mind for everyone. “It’s top of mind for us at the city as well. In the first half of this very, very long (legislative) session, we have spent a ton of time working, being in Olympia, testifying on bills, trying to help the legislature help us.”
- Business Applications and Licenses Growth in 2019 grew by 20.7%, “that is a really promising sign and those new businesses are bringing new jobs, 50% higher than in 2021 … so we’re bringing new companies, new businesses and new employment.”
- 2,476,100 and 29 new new square footage of building has come up in the Kent Valley. “That is really impressive and that’s growth that other places just aren’t seeing.”
- The vacancy rate in the Kent Valley is four percent. “Four percent vacancy is really, really low. And that means that people are staying in Kent, and they’re coming to Kent because it’s a good place to do business.”
“I want to say thank you to each and everyone of you for your investment in our community,” Ralph said to chamber members at the end of her speech. “It matters. It makes us who we are. This is when I say we are Kent. This is what I mean, right? How do we do this together? And I will always stand up here and be honest with you and tell you there are things that are not like they should be, but I will also always be able to tell you that we are working and we are trying to navigate, figure out what our lane is and whether that’s working with our our legislative partners to make sure that what’s happening in Olympia has no negative impacts on us, but positive impacts working with our nonprofits, working with our businesses, working with the Chamber as we can’t do this alone, but I will always be honest about that.”
Watch an edited version of Ralph’s full speech below (running time is one hour):
For more info on the Kent Chamber, visit https://kentchamber.com/.