Bye-Bye Ice Chips; Is Yelm Anti-Business, Anti-Growth?

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Lisa Smith, the executive director of the nonprofit Enterprise for Equity, recently gave a presentation to the Rainier City Council.

She said her focus is helping small businesses “get stronger.”

“Forty percent of the people we serve come from rural communities. So what we know is our county is stronger when your rural community is strong,” she said.

We wholeheartedly agree. Our community — Tenino, Rainier, Yelm, McKenna and Roy — is healthier when local jobs can provide employment.

Local businesses and jobs provide a tax base and a swirling of money from wages. One common principle is that for every dollar spent locally, it generates $7.

Recently a new organization formed, the Yelm Business Association. Its mission statement: “To preserve, promote and enhance Yelm’s locally owned businesses by acting as an advocate to local government by improving Yelm’s aesthetic appeal and by encouraging citizen involvement in the community.”

At the meeting, some brought up difficulties in working with the city of Yelm. Both the business Ice Chips and the Yelm Farmers Market representatives said they tried to bring their businesses into the city but were rebuffed for various reasons — coding, permitting and others. The farmers market is now located just outside of city limits at Nisqually Spring Farms, but would like to move to Yelm City Park. Ice Chips, undergoing a massive expansion, will be making that happen in Tumwater.

“It’s emotional for us because we have 34 employees from Yelm,” said Ice Chips co-owner Charlotte Clary. “It was all coding and permitting that caused that to happen. ... We love it here, so we were willing to come into the city limits ... but coming into the city limits, it became apparent how non-business friendly Yelm is. ... It’s really sad. We wanted to be here.”

Ice Chips wanted to be in Yelm. They couldn’t find a building big enough that would be zoned light industrial manufacturing. They then pondered building their own manufacturing facility in Yelm, but were told by the city zoning would be a problem.

“I feel bad, because I love Yelm, but cities that keep business away never reach the status they think they are,” Clary said, adding that she believes Yelm is not pro-growth.

The Ice Chips move is a real loss to this community.

The Ice Chips expansion in Tumwater will pay a lease of $14,000 per month, employ more than the 34 employees at their current Yelm business site, and has a goal of up to $15 million in sales in 2015.

We hope the city of Yelm did everything possible to keep Ice Chips in Yelm. We hope there are good reasons we don’t have a vibrant farmers market at the center of our city at Yelm City Park. We hope that Yelm is indeed pro-growth and understands the value of local jobs and activities.

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