South Snohomish County is located just minutes north of Seattle, but once you arrive, you’ll likely feel a world away from the big city — especially if your travels lead you to the city of Edmonds.
Nestled 15 miles north of Seattle’s bustle, Edmonds is a well-established seaside community known for its scenic views, walkable downtown area, arts and culture, and convenient ferry service. But if there’s one thing Edmonds is not, it is sleepy.
“Moving to the last decade or so … I think the big change has been that Edmonds has updated with the rest of the region. The food scene is known throughout the region; there are breweries and distilleries, and much more of the arts and culture offerings,” said Patrick Doherty, the economic development and community services director for the City of Edmonds.
As noted on the city’s website, Edmonds grew out of a homestead and logging operation started by logging industry veteran George Brackett nearly 145 years ago. Fueled, in part, by the entrance of The Great Northern Railway and the automobile ferry service, Edmonds eventually would evolve from an isolated shoreline village to a flourishing community with strengthening ties to Seattle and elsewhere in King County.
Today, Edmonds provides many amenities for both residents and visitors, while striving to preserve many characteristics of its historic origins. One of the more important economic catalysts found within Edmonds today is the arts and culture sector.
In fact, there are at least 100 arts and culture-related organizations, programs, and businesses in Edmonds. Furthermore, Edmonds’ 2017 Arts and Culture Economic Impact study found that in 2016, there was an estimated $19 million in direct revenues received by the arts and culture organizations and businesses, which translated into more than $50 million in economic impact to the Edmonds region, and up to 440 full-time jobs.
One example is the Cascadia Art Museum, which opened its doors in 2015 and attracted about 10,000 visitors in its first year alone. Housed in a converted 1960s-era Safeway supermarket, the museum primarily features art from the Pacific Northwest.
In more recent developments, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in November 2018 that Edmonds was selected as Washington’s first Certified Creative District — a designation that recognizes both the existing strength of Edmonds’ Creative Sector, as well as the progress and enhancements earmarked for the years ahead.
As noted by the city, the Creative Sector includes traditional arts and culture establishments, as well as businesses engaged in design, photography and videography, creative software, brewing, distilling, culinary arts, jewelry making, book publishing, architecture and drafting, cabinetry, catering, advertising, and more.
Doherty said that the city is currently developing a new marketing campaign highlighting Edmonds’ Certified Creative District designation.
With its robust arts and culture scene — along with such activities and amenities as whale watching, parks, sandy beaches, boutiques, and cozy coffee shops — Edmonds might have a small-town feel, but it’s big on attractions. And the momentum shows little signs of slowing.
“I think that the infusion of the wider demographics (i.e., younger families, etc.), new businesses, the number of people staying as opposed to leaving — all of that is kind of revitalizing the town and giving it a stronger appeal to both the people who live here and also the attraction as a day-trip destination,” Doherty said.
He noted that much of today’s tourism advertising bears the messaging, “Treat Yourself to Edmonds,” in an effort to attract even more visitors to Edmonds and to highlight its small-town charm.
“We got together about a year ago with our [tourism] partners in town … and through a collaborative series of exercises, meetings, discussions, and brainstorming, etc., we came up with [the] messaging worth exploring in our upcoming tourism advertising,” Doherty explained.
“We basically think that a lot of people view it as kind of a treat to give themselves Edmonds for the day,” Doherty added.
In addition, the city has created an audio clip geared toward those waiting in line for the ferry that highlights some of the attractions Edmonds has to offer and to remind commuters that Edmonds “is so much more than a ferry line” in South Snohomish County.
While tourism is an important player in the area’s economy, it’s far from alone. Also contributing to the local economy is the multiethnic “International District”; the car dealerships located along Highway 99; and the Swedish Edmonds campus, which offers a full scope of medical and surgical services, including Level IV Trauma emergency medicine, diagnostic, treatment, and support services.
So, what’s in store for the future of Edmonds? Looking ahead, one can expect to see even more changes, including growth in the creative and healthcare-related sectors. “A lot of people who live in Edmonds, especially homeowners, drive away from Edmonds every morning to go work somewhere else, so it would be great to offer more jobs to keep them in town,” Doherty said.