Land development in the public interest counts returns not just in dollars for owners, but in all the ways it helps our community prosper.

Traditional development projects are designed to maximize profits for their owners. While Community Benefit (CB) projects do not forgo financial return, they do prioritize community dividends.

The goal of the Millworks is to generate maximum economic and community development benefits for the people of Whatcom County, and aligns with our community’s biggest challenges: housing, childcare, economic prosperity and development, equity, public health and regional resilience.

Millworks benefits range from services (affordable housing, childcare) to standards and practices (green building, local procurement) in Phase I, and once Phase II is complete, will comprise economic opportunities in the food sector and beyond, including jobs, workforce training and increased food security, as well as a hub of small business supports and the promotion and facilitation of more employee-owned enterprises, and amenities such as public gathering and other open spaces.

The Millworks will make our community more resilient. By creating opportunities for a broader swath of the population than traditional projects, community benefit developments, over a very long period, help reduce the need for human services while bolstering social, cultural and commercial connections.

1. Flowers wSilos in background


Address a critical community need and drive economic resiliency with workforce housing.

  • 0.8% rental vacancy rate (Spring 2021)
  • $1,900 – median rent in Bellingham
  • 39% of Whatcom County residents spend more than the recommended maximum of 30%
    of household income on housing
  • 77% increase in the number of Whatcom families awaiting placement in housing (March
    2020-March 2021)
  • Affordable units will continue to be in short supply
  • Home prices will remain high and out of reach for many
  • Population growth on top of the current housing deficit means that housing insecurity and houselessness will increase

Who can’t afford to own a home?

  • Childcare workers
  • Nurses
  • Electricians
  • Foodservice staff
  • Bank tellers
  • Firefighters
  • Natural resources occupations
  • Administrative personnel
  • Teachers & school counselors
  • Law enforcement patrol officers
  • Web developers


Invest in the best possible start for all children.

Affordable Childcare and Early Learning

  • Whatcom County is considered a childcare and early learning desert
  • Childcare costs are among the most expensive in Washington
  • 5,817 – FTE formal childcare slots for children 0-5 needed by 2025
  • 6,252 – FTE for school-age care needed by 2025
  • A lack of affordable, quality childcare is affecting families, care providers, employers, and
    the local economy.

Source: Western Washington University Center for Economic and Business Research, Preliminary Report: Whatcom County Child Care Demand Study (2021)

Prosperity and Resilience

Strengthen economy and increase opportunity by building on local food system.

Economic Vitality

Food and Farming
The Millworks’ local-food campus builds on the backbone of Whatcom County’s economy: agriculture – with infrastructure and events that highlight the local food and ag economy, its importance and benefits. 

  • Whatcom County ranks in the top 3% of farm production in the US
  • 100,000 acres of fertile Pacific Northwest farmland
  • 1,700+ farms, from to third generation to new and emerging farmers
  • $360 million in annual agricultural revenue

The campus will bring together a myriad of food-related businesses, organizations and activities to create natural synergies that create jobs and fuel economic growth, foster innovation and improve community health and wellness.

Employee Ownership
Employee-owned businesses yield numerous benefits, from the employee-owners to the business and the communities in which they operate. 

  • Sellers get fair market value for their business and sell to a known and trusted entity, the team that helped grow their successful enterprise.
  • Employee-owners have higher wages and typically enjoy better benefits, higher retirement savings and greater job security in a recession.
  • Employee-owned businesses are often more productive, more profitable and experience faster growth.
  • Communities benefit from more wealth sharing (resulting in more broad-based prosperity), a more resilient economy and increased civic participation.

Community & Philanthropy Center
Nonprofit organizations play significant and  vital roles in the health and wellbeing of Whatcom County, including the local economy. The Millworks will include co-op spaces for organizations to share ideas and information more easily while also establishing a stable permanent home.

Public Gathering
Connection, with family, friends and others, is essential to individual and community wellbeing.

A project that meets both community and business needs is a no-brainer. The Millworks will foster long-term economic resilience and job growth in our community. It brings support and efficiency in the food sector and adds much needed workforce housing along with public space in a beautiful waterfront setting — if that’s not a great investment I don’t know what is.

Mike Hammes RAM Construction CEO