Nearly two months into a new year, I still find myself contemplating the idea and realities of change. In fact, few of us can deny or be surprised by the fact that our world is rapidly changing.
In an age of defiance not so long ago, a young singer named Bob Dylan said it best: “... you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin’.”
Change is everywhere, even in Gig Harbor, and it’s occurring at an accelerated rate that is sometimes hard to believe, hard to handle. New businesses, new technology, new road construction, new housing and commercial development, and new people are all around us at every turn.
Since the new year, I’ve found myself swimmin’ pretty fast to keep up with the tides of change in our office. Two of our valued employees — membership services representative Tami Skanes and communications manager Blythe Price — have or are on the verge of leaving us to pursue new job opportunities elsewhere.
We’re happy for them, of course, but we’ll miss their cheerful, positive contributions behind the scenes, implementing innovations and improvements that brought many of the chamber’s most successful events to the entire community, from ribbon cuttings to the Maritime Gig Festival.
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve already found two exceptional employees who will take us to the next level of service to our members and the community at large. Please stop by any time to meet Tracy Patton, our new member services representative, and Jamie Taylor, who is our new communications specialist.
I have talked in the past about the evolution of our community; those changes will be felt in a variety of ways for years to come. Some people grumble about more “big box” stores, more traffic, more people, more noise and higher expenses overall.
However, we can also say that Gig Harborites now have — due to better community planning — more local options, less travel time, nicer shopping districts and well-maintained streets and parks.
So which is better, the Gig Harbor many of us knew and loved back in the day, or the new (and, as some would say, improved) version we see all around the peninsula today?
Quality of life is truly subjective; typical measures are well-known and include cost of living, commute times and crime rates, among others. However, quality-of-life factors that define an area are not so predictable and tend to change with the times.
Portland, Ore., for example, is known for its environmentally sensitive planning and bike- and walk-ability. New York City residents love their urban environment and proximity to arts and cultural amenities.
Gig Harbor citizens have traditionally pointed to “the harbor” and “the mountain” as important quality-of-life factors. I would add some of the area’s newer features, which have been made possible by diligent people in business and government who have sought to improve the city’s potential without intruding on historic areas and activities that give the harbor its charm.
Take Uptown, Point Fosdick Square and Gig Harbor North, for example. These developments have changed the landscape pretty radically in recent years; however, permitting processes required essential traffic remediation, as well as natural landscaping that would beautify those neighborhoods and provide a natural screen as trees and shrubbery mature.
We have new jobs, new tax dollars, and convenient and varied shopping, entertainment and dining options that keep us and our money on our side of the bridge.
As a result, the whole community benefits — from small mom-and-pop businesses to schools, nonprofits and, dare I say it, the big-box stores that we all love to hate.
So even as we continue into another new year and the changes it will inevitably bring, I find encouragement in Dylan’s words. Let’s all get busy swimming in the waters of opportunity and contribute in ways large and small to ensure Gig Harbor’s future as a vibrant community, one that meets the needs and desires of its residents and businesses for the foreseeable future — and beyond.Warren Zimmerman is the president of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, which is located at 3125 Judson St. in Gig Harbor. For more information, call 253-851-6865 or visit www.gigharborchamber.com.