By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce has launched what its CEO Lynn Dennis called “a year of opportunities.”
At the Chamber’s annual meeting on Thursday, she issued a challenge to members: “When you see an opportunity for your business or other businesses, reach out to (me) or board members, and let’s work together. … Think how much we can get done.”
Members in turn presented challenges and requests, talking in table-based groups to help chart the organization’s course for 2018.
Given the meeting’s fresh-start theme, the location was auspicious – The Sanctuary at Admiral, the city-landmark event venue that had just the night before celebrated its relaunch under new management – the team from Duos, including Benjamin Jury:
The new look inside the old ex-church begins in its foyer:
Speaking of new, Dennis introduced Pete Spalding as the Chamber’s board chair for this year:
Spalding, a longtime community advocate who lives on Pigeon Point, works for Verity Credit Union, which is opening a branch in The Junction later this year. He said Chamber members will be surveyed soon about what they consider important issues. (The last survey had a 60 percent return rate, he said.) But some issues they already know will be big this year include Fauntleroy Boulevard, West Seattle light rail, homelessness, the proposed city “head tax,” and state B&O taxes.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Dennis said the Chamber had tackled its goals for 2017:
-Take visible action to stimulate and support a strong local and regional economy
-Provide a compelling portfolio of membership benefits meeting the needs of the business community
-Deeper leadership, including a succession plan
The stats for the year included growing membership to more than 200, with more than 70 percent of them having been represented at at least one Chamber event during the year (total attendance at events passed 1,300).
Besides continuing the longrunning series of monthly lunches, street cleanups and partnerships were among the year’s achievements. Dennis singled out the dropoff recycling event at which 342 vehicles came through in a few hours. Waste Management and the West Seattle Junction Association were among the partners for that event; Dennis also noted the Job Fair in which the Chamber and Junction Association partnered (WSB was a sponsor of that event). And event/candidate forums were part of the year’s achievements, too.
LOOKING AHEAD: Table-by-table discussions resulted in suggestions for what members want to get out of the Chamber and its events in the coming year. After about 10 minutes of cataloging ideas and suggestions, here’s what was reported back to the full gathering:
“Membership” table: Networking, advice from fellow business owners, heads-up on details (filings etc.), information on businesses “coming in and out of West Seattle,” employee recruitment, sexual-harassment training, adding more information to the Chamber website, recommendations of local businesses.
“Government” topics table: Bring in more officials, police, etc., and be clear before their appearances on what members hope to get out of the meeting … Leadership-development classes at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) … New tax laws and how they affect businesses … The upcoming Alaskan Way Viaduct closure and demolition when the tunnel opens – “instead of looking at it like it’s a bad thing, look at (opportunities)” such as increased on-peninsula employment and shopping.
“Strengthening/supporting the local business community” table: Many companies are looking for help with marketing their events and attracting sponsors for them … Finding out more about grants … Have Chamber highlight members’ services/products … More educational programs. Toward “how can the Chamber support businesses?” there was a suggestion for more news and other reasons for people to use the Chamber’s website.
“Community support” table: Spotlighting local nonprofits, serving on their boards, offering workshops. Table members wanted to “reach our neighbors, have our own version of Yelp that keeps us from going anywhere else,” facilitate connections/introductions for new businesses – when customers are asked “how did you find us?” they felt the answer should be “through the Chamber.”
Government affairs/advocacy: Concerns included income inequity and economic injustice.
Also: the impending head tax, new city rules for landlords, secure scheduling.
As CEO Dennis mentioned repeatedly, one way everyone can help turn ideas into reality is to get involved in the Chamber’s various committees: “We’ve got a dotted line for you to sign today.”
Earlier in the meeting:
ANNOUNCEMENTS: HomeStreet Bank (WSB sponsor) has declared its West Seattle branch (4022 SW Alaska) the most successful in the company, today’s lunch was told … Quail Park Memory Care of West Seattle (WSB sponsor) will be open and moving residents in by March … Whole Foods Market is “projecting to open late spring 2019,” according to management at The Whittaker (WSB sponsor) … ArtsWest is still presenting “Peerless,” Sandy Adams reminded everyone … the next Chamber lunch will feature speed networking … In honor of their 40th anniversary, Illusions Hair Design (WSB sponsor) will spend the entire month of February selling paper hearts with proceeds going to Southwest Youth and Family Services, rather than the traditional one-day “Have a Heart” benefit-haircut event.
REMEMBERING DOTTY HUGHES: Toward the start of the program, Amy Lee Derenthal offered a tribute to Dotty Hughes, the Chamber member and active community volunteer who died suddenly last month. She spoke of Ms. Hughes’s memorable personality and endless involvement, concluding: “I wanted you all to know there was a Dotty, and she was awesome.”
The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce has monthly lunch meetings and other events – you can find the calendar and other information at wschamber.com.