Halfway through the summer tourism season, Darrington city officials report positive economic numbers.
The community that was deeply impacted by the Oso Landslide is showing sales at the local IGA and recreation businesses to be at pre-recession levels. While some shops are still seeing slumping sales consistent with the past several years, mayor Dan Rankin said he is pleased, and that tourism is strong.
This is a very positive sign, he said before a Washington State University event, where president Elson Floyd pledged to support the landslide affected region.
WSU vows to spend at least two years in the area to help with economic development, including giving tuition waivers for students and helping to plan fundraisers.
But many are worried about the long term future of the small logging town of Darrington. Only one major logging company remains and business owners like Randy Ashe say without jobs, the town is at risk of dying.
Tourism and recreation are great, but we need jobs, said Ashe, owner of the Darrington IGA. This falls at the feet of state and federal officials.
Ashe says restrictions on logging are too tight to allow business to thrive once again like it did in the town's 'hay day'.
On April 25, Governor Jay Inslee announced a new $300,000 program to save Hampton Mill, the so-called economic heartbeat of Darrington. The funding partnership between the State Department of Commerce and United Way of Snohomish County are designed to help defray fuel costs for Hampton Mill and protect the hundreds of direct and indirect living-wage jobs it provides in Darrington.
But with the struggles following the landslide disaster, Ashe says its given the community a spark to revitalize their town once again.
We were once dying slowly, he said. Now there is a fire in us. But it's going to take a lot of hard work.