Sammamish Small Businesses Need Room to Grow

Sammamish doesn’t have adequate commercial space to enable small businesses to grow and prosper. This topic has been brought up repeatedly at Chamber events.

A major reason is the lack of a true main street or town center. The concept of a thriving town center has been a major part of the vision for Sammamish’s future since even before the city was incorporated.

Bringing businesses together in a central location that includes other adjacent services, housing, parks and other attractions helps generate and sustain economic energy. Businesses support each other. It also provides convenience, environmental and health benefits, and many other positives for the community.

Sammamish adopted its Town Center Plan to accomplish these goals while managing growth in ways that protect and enhance the many factors that make this a great community.

A city consultant, Community Attributes, provided updated economic and demographic data and strategic economic development recommendations in 2017. Businesses and residents were encouraged to participate through a survey and community meetings.

Among the findings of that effort were that demand for more services and amenities is strong, but the lack of available commercial spaces in Sammamish constrains the ability to meet this demand and as a result, there are numerous business and service vacancies in the local market. But the city is strongly positioned to recruit many different types of businesses and high quality services if such spaces were available.

 We often hear about the desirability of bringing Ace Hardware to Sammamish. In the community survey, 68 percent favored encouraging more businesses to locate in the city. Business owners noted that some services were suffering due to an insufficient supply of commercial space.

 Metropolitan Market would not have opened here without the commercial space the Sammamish Village project created. Now, Metropolitan Market provides another great grocery store and also partners to give back to many community groups such as the local YMCA, Rotary Club and our Farmer’s Market.

The survey also identified the need to increase affordable housing and improve transit access and walkability. Traffic was a key concern, and Sammamish Now will address that in upcoming articles.

 Sammamish is prosperous. Our 73.7 percent of households earning $100,000 or more made the city #1 in the nation in 2015 according to NerdWallet Compare Inc., a financial services company headquartered in San Francisco.

Only about four percent of employed Sammamish residents work within the community. That’s even with a huge number of in-home businesses.

Tellingly, about 80 percent of people in the economic development survey said less than half of their shopping occurs in Sammamish. The analysis found that in one year the city lost about $268 million in retail spending to other communities.

A strong business base helps fund needed services and infrastructure. But our small retail base limits sales tax revenue, which totaled $10.1 million in the 2017-18 city operating budget. That’s less than Issaquah generates for its budget in one year ($11.25 million in 2017), even though Sammamish has a population nearly 60 percent larger than Issaquah. Redmond generated about $50 million in sales tax revenue for its 2017-18 operating budget.

We have outstanding schools, beautiful surroundings, educated and talented residents, economic strength, and many other remarkable community assets. This kind of environment should make Sammamish a great place to operate a small business, if the space were available.

As a vibrant, upscale community full of smart people and numerous resources, Sammamish has the ability to implement the Town Center Plan, to support small business and attract more retail, restaurants and a wide variety of other services and amenities, while it works on traffic issues. Doing so will keep more revenue here to meet essential needs, including improvements to our transportation system.