A lot has changed since the Association of Washington Business (AWB) was founded 113 years ago. Innovation has sparked new industries, many of them unimaginable even a generation ago, changing the way we live and work and drawing millions of new residents to our state.
Through all that, one thing has remained the same: AWB has been a steadfast voice for employers, advocating on behalf businesses of all sizes and from all industries to promote a healthy economy.
We’re proud of our history and body of work benefitting employers and the state. But as we recently took stock of who we are and where our organization is going, we realized it was time to refresh our brand.
Now more than ever, employers are expected to take on a larger role in solving the complex problems facing families across the state.
That’s why our recently introduced brand update, AWB’s first major brand refresh in more than three decades, emphasizes collaboration and problem-solving. The update includes a fresh new logo, replacing the familiar blue rectangle that has symbolized AWB since the 1980s, and it positions AWB as a convener – bringing diverse groups together and finding solutions that move our state forward in creating economic opportunity for all.
One example of how we are living our new band is the AWB – Local Chamber Grassroots Alliance. The alliance, founded in 2014 with 24 local chamber partners, including the including the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, has now grown to 72 partners, combining our efforts to achieve results.
The partnership was part of the successful effort in 2015 to pass the first-in-a-decade $16 billion, 16-year transportation investment package in the Legislature. It passed thanks to the work of a diverse coalition that included chambers of commerce, employer groups, Democrat and Republican lawmakers, cities and counties and others to advocate for a comprehensive, statewide transportation infrastructure investment package.
The package funds long-awaited projects across the state, including U.S. Highway 2, State Route 20, State Route 28 and State Route 285 safety and other improvements, as well as U.S. Highway 395 upgrades from outside Richland through the Spokane area, and adjusting the Interstate 82 Red Mountain Interchange to accommodate increased traffic, just to name a few.
And, we didn’t stop there.
This year, we collaborated with the Washington State Association of Counties, the Association of Washington Cities and the Washington Public Ports Association to commission and release a detailed report, “Building the Economy: Infrastructure Needs in Washington.” It outlines $190 billion in statewide infrastructure needs with the goal of signaling to congressional leaders that we’re ready for the investment.
Our next endeavor is working to bridge the urban-rural economic divide.
In March, we hosted the first AWB Rural Jobs Summit in Olympia. From port and economic development leaders to lawmakers of both parties and chambers of commerce executives, more than 70 attendees gave up their Saturday to share ideas and listen to diverse viewpoints.
We agreed that bringing job growth to every corner of the state means addressing complex and costly issues, including permitting and regulatory roadblocks. Our next step is to outline objectives and solutions that bring the central Puget Sound economy to main streets across Washington.
We plan to do that this fall by hosting a larger Rural Jobs Summit to take what we learned in March and come up with action items at the state, local and federal levels.
A lot has changed in Washington over the last 113 years, but AWB remains committed to helping employers succeed. We know that’s ultimately the best way for employees, families and communities to succeed.
Kris Johnson is the president and CEO of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and designated manufacturing association.