Brian Kuh might be relatively new to Team Jefferson, having just become its deputy director in May, but he’s bringing a lifetime of passion for economic development to his upcoming role as director in January.
“I love this stuff,” said Kuh, who was tapped by outgoing director Peter Quinn to replace him. “I’ve loved living in this area, where my wife is from and where we’ve raised our kids. I’ve loved working in business lending over the past decade. My most recent work has been with nonprofits, and I’ve worked with Team Jefferson quite a bit over the years.”
Team Jefferson is the state-designated economic development council (EDC) for Jefferson County, dedicated to advancing the interests of local small businesses, both potential and preexisting, through avenues as diverse as commercial funding, professional counseling, technical assistance and agency-based training.
“We want to cultivate a skilled and sustainable workforce, but that doesn’t just mean helping them find and retain jobs,” Kuh said. “They need things like affordable area housing as well. We interact with agencies ranging from the city and port of Port Townsend to the various branches of Jefferson County government, including the PUD.”
Kuh and Quinn addressed the Jefferson County Public Utility District on Dec. 13. Although Team Jefferson previously had interacted with PUD staff members on a more one-on-one basis, Kuh called the meeting “unprecedented” for allowing the EDC access to all three PUD commissioners at once.
Kuh solicited finances from the PUD by seeking to determine which of its priorities the EDC could most strongly support. Among his proposals to the commissioners was expanded broadband access.
“Most PUDs contribute to EDCs, but that’s after recommending specific programs they could pursue to together. We certainly wouldn’t expect a blank check,” Kuh said.
During the PUD meeting with Kuh and Quinn, Commissioner Wayne King voiced his concerns that Team Jefferson’s proposed initiatives might focus unduly on Port Townsend, as opposed to Jefferson County as a whole. Kuh told The Leader after the meeting that he agrees “there’s a lot of work to be done in Jefferson County,” but he believes the EDC can benefit the city and county alike.
“I have a real passion for cultivating rural communities,” said Kuh, who named Chimacum and Quilcene as two of the smaller population centers he’d love to see flourish. “I feel the desire to help out wherever I can, and it’s my personal mission to bolster the southwest end of the region.”
To that end, Kuh plans to meet with representatives of those communities in their backyards, in places such as Quilcene. He counts Kathleen Kler, chair of the board of county commissioners, as a like-minded partner in fostering rural economic development, and looks forward to developing relationships with others.
“I’m not really planning a broadscale departure of what the EDC was doing under Peter,” Kuh said.
“Our partnerships with organizations like the chamber of commerce have already yielded fruit, so we’ll continue with those. We’re supporting the organic renaissance of these communities by promoting affordable, attainable living for employees who want a better quality of life than they might enjoy on the I-5 corridor.”