Fifteen months after welcoming a new president and CEO, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber gathered Tuesday for its 128th annual meeting.
One sign that the chamber has been revitalized under its new leadership came in the attendance at the Bicentennial Pavilion – 520 luncheon guests versus last year’s 450.
Another hit as the meeting commenced with a peppy dance number performed throughout the aisles by students from Tacoma’s School of the Arts.
“We need to continue to fight for business,” began President and CEO Tom Pierson, as he noted a recent 48-hour membership drive that signed up 102 new businesses. They joined a chamber that, over the past year, has sponsored 58 percent more events than the year before.
The membership growth heralds the first increase in six years. “We needed to create some new energy,” Pierson said.
Business growth writer and keynote speaker Steven Little began his presentation with a quote from the Harvard Business Review, which said, “(We) have not yet learned how to adjust” to the economic consequences” of rapid change.
The quote comes from an issue published in 1932.
Little told the assembled business leaders that success begins with a strong sense of purpose and requires growth planning, market intelligence, knowledge of customers and technology, the hiring and retention of good employees, and a vision of the future. He also listed the “drivers of growth” in Tacoma and Pierce County, which include a quality of life blessed by mountains and water, a strong educational system, world-class health care and a “gritty” image that honors real work and individuality. And he asked, “Why is anyone apologizing for this community?”
He suggested that leaders “double-down on who you already are.”
“I’ve been here for three days,” he said. “I could live here. This is as good as it gets.”
Asked after the meeting about the recent growth of his organization, Pierson credited “timing and the economy. Businesses today see a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not going back to 2008.”
He emphasized the need for advocacy and an increased representation of chamber issues to governments, whether on an increase of the B&O tax or the need for the completion of the state Route 167 project. “We’re pretty adamant,” he said. Still, he said, “I’m somebody who looks around – I look at how do we fix this. In these polarized times we’re in, I look for that middle ground.”C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535