The organization known as South East Effective Development, or SEED, continues to improve the quality of life through economic development, arts programs, and much more.
By Nina Huang
October 20, 2016
Southeast Seattle has a lot to offer: cultural diversity, ethnic foods, history and a lot of great arts and entertainment programs for all ages. South East Effective Development’s (SEED) Director of Economic Development Lance Randall wants to bring more attention to the neighborhood similar to South Lake Union and Capitol Hill.
SEED was founded in 1975 and its mission is to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle.
Randall says the organization does this by creating partnerships and inspiring investments in housing, arts, and economic development. SEED serves lower income individuals in the community that have fewer opportunities and resources. SEED has also worked on extensive real estate projects such as Rainier Court and currently has 11 housing developments. The organization has also partnered with companies such as Darigold, PepsiCo and Lowe’s to bring more jobs to the area and help with job retention.
Some of SEED’s major milestone achievements include several community development projects such as the Columbia City Health Clinic, Washington Care Center, rehabilitation of El Centro de la Raza and Hutchison Community Centers, and Rainier Square’s commercial area.
Further adding to its philanthropic endeavors and part of the SEEDArts program, SEED initiated a series of week-long summer camps focused on theater for youth 6 to 12. This year, they hosted 38 kids, many of whom received scholarships to participate for free or at reduced cost, Kathy Fowells, SEEDArts Director shared.
As a resident of Rainier Beach, Randall said one of the attractive things about working for SEED was that he gets to work in the community that he lives in.
Randall has been working in economic development for over 20 years and previously worked for the city of Seattle’s office of economic development. When the city decided to go in a different direction, Randall moved into his new role at SEED.
Now at SEED where he’s been for about a year, southeast Seattle is the only community in the city that has a formally trained economic development practitioner working on development projects.
“My job is to reach out to these businesses in southeast Seattle to make sure they’re doing OK. I work on economic development retention and development work with existing companies. How do we keep them viable and how do we keep them in business so they can expand and grow?” Randall explained.
Randall also works with site selectors to recruit business to Southeast Seattle, and with developers and investors to build affordable commercial spaces for businesses in the neighborhood.
Comparing his role at SEED now to his previous role for the city, Randall said, “Bureaucracy gets in the way of the true mission of providing support to the businesses in Seattle.”
“[Seattle is] such a large city with different neighborhoods and different vibes, and [Southeast Seattle] is the most diverse part of the city and each place is different. In working for the city, you have to tailor your efforts for the neighborhood and you have to juggle different cultures and needs of the neighborhoods,” he elaborated.
According to SEED, 71 percent of southeast Seattle residents are nonwhite and 40 to 53 percent are immigrants. 40 ethnic groups also live in the area and 60 different languages are spoken.
“Working in a smaller area, I can really focus in on the community and understand the industry make up. It’s much easier to get to know the key people and businesses, focus[ing] on the needs of the businesses,” he explained.
According to SEED, the geographic boundaries constituting southeast Seattle are south of I-90, north of the southern Seattle City limits, west of Lake Washington, and east of I-5. About 84,000 people live in this region which comprises over a dozen neighborhoods.
The industry make up for southeast Seattle is very diverse. The industry mix includes arts, entertainment, restaurants, food production, healthcare, professional services, light manufacturing, trade, transportation, warehousing and distribution.
“It’s not what people think it is, they assume there’s a lot of crime in the area. They assume it’s because of the diversity in the area, but it’s a myth.” Southeast Seattle isn’t a crime ridden place, rather, it’s collection of vibrant, diverse communities that are family friendly and wholesome.
Fowells also mentions that SEEDArts hosts an annual celebration of the cultures that make up the community called Arts Gumbo. Now in its 16th year, this year’s theme was “Pan Africa, Pan Arts” and for three days last week, SEEDArts hosted multiple book talks, two African films, music, dance, a fashion show, and food.
Randall iterates that southeast Seattle is home to people who are hardworking, respectful and really care about the neighborhood.
The gentrification that people talk about, says Randall, is happening in Southeast Seattle, but not as fast as it has in other communities. “SEED [and other nonprofit developers] made sure we got ahead of this phenomena of developing property for profit,” Randall said, with the added focus of providing affordable housing to those that need it.
As for SEED’s future, Randall said they’re hoping to partner with local commercial property owners to develop affordable commercial space for small businesses in the area. “This is a big need in our community, and we are working on a strategy to meet the demand.”
Meanwhile, most of the largest developers responsible for all the cranes around the city are focusing on huge mega million dollar developments.
A Vibrant Community
Randall encouraged folks to visit southeast Seattle because there are several great music venues that house arts and culture. SEED also has a very strong arts program such as the Columbia City Gallery and Rainier Arts Center. There are exhibits for local artists to sell their artwork as well as a SEEDArts Studio in Hillman City for artists to produce art.
In addition, the Rainier Valley Radio amplifies the diverse voices of Southeast Seattle and SEEDArts Cinema provides opportunities for families to enjoy a variety of films. For example, over 800 people attended Cinema Under the Stars this summer, an outdoor, family friendly movie event in Columbia Park.
“Southeast Seattle really has the full gamut of economic development. There are plenty of activities to enhance quality of life, growing businesses and much more. That’s how you create a vibrant community, and we’ll keep going on,” he said.
Randall will continue to help bring more businesses to the neighborhood as well as encourage current businesses to take extra steps to continue to grow and become more viable to open multiple locations.
“I’m trying to give them the same attention to South Lake Union or Capitol Hill, there’s something here that’s worth coming to,” he said.
This article was updated on October 21 at 4:30pm.