Among the organizations and firms listed in the 2013 Major Employers List, a few have made an even more exclusive list — having achieved double-digit employment growth over the past year.
Tacoma Goodwill Industries is up 21.33 percent, according to the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. Interstate Distributor Co. is up 20.7 percent. Brown & Haley, up 23 percent. Absher Construction, up 49.12 percent.
And the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties grew by 40.3 percent, moving from 494 full-time employees in Pierce County in 2012 to 693 in 2013.
Bob Ecklund, for 10 years the president and CEO of the local Y – which itself has entered its 132nd year – credits that growth to his staff, Y volunteers and to the vision the organization defined in 2009.
“Our guiding principles are focusing on under-resourced communities, working through partnerships and collaborations, building community through a sense of belonging and fostering relationships,” he said.
And from those principles have come goals: fiscal responsibility, staff development and accountability, fiscal development, outreach, programs and marketing.
“Everybody has measurable goals,” Ecklund said. “We knew what we had to do. The whole organization had goals — the organization, the branch, the department, the individual.”
It’s all part of a program called 2020 Vision, and that program in large part contributed to the latest growth in employment.
Add current and planned growth in programs and facilities.
In 2014, a Y will open in cooperation with the University of Washington Tacoma. In 2015, a Y will open in Sumner.
From the beginning of the Great Recession at the end of 2006 through 2013, Ecklund has reported revenue growth of 75 percent, and a 68 percent increase in employees.
“But we don’t focus on the numbers,” he said. “We focus on the mission.”
“Our focus is on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” said Renee Quinn, community relations director.
In 2006, the Y served 51,000 members. Today, count 130,000. Part of that increase comes with the addition of facilities in Gig Harbor, Silverdale and Bremerton.
The numbers describe the macro. For the micro, consider what the Y is doing to achieve one of its major goals — to “stem the tide of childhood obesity by 2020.”
The Y collaborates with health systems and school districts on matters of nutrition and physical activity. Beyond that, snack bars inside Y facilities do not offer cookies or sugary drinks.
“It’s a higher purpose than buildings or market share,” Ecklund said.
“Our emphasis is on filling gaps in community needs,” said Quinn.
Beyond childhood obesity, another goal is to provide water-safety lessons for all children, free. Anther goal, Ecklund said, is that “every child before the age of 12 can be a member for 90 days, free, by 2015. At the end of 90 days, if the child can’t afford membership, we’ll offer reduced rates.”
Another initiative, “Center for Community Impact,” operates as a “Y Without Walls” outreach program.
“We need to go to where the kids are,” Ecklund said. “We partner with school administrators, we’re going into schools, and all branches have late-night openings.
“There were people in the community who thought we couldn’t do these things,” he said. “What we did was announce 12-month goals, and 15-month goals, bite-sized goals. We broke it down. Don’t plan for failure. Don’t batten down the hatches to weather the storm. We leaned into it. We worked on inspiring the team, whereas a lot of people stopped playing the game. We did have difficult choices. We trimmed the payroll by $1 million. We made hard choices. I formed a CEO leadership cabinet, and we strengthened the board. You have to have the courage to stick with it. Things will change.”
“We wanted to be transparent about everything,” said Quinn.
“We tried to lead with inspiration,” said Ecklund. “We wanted our front-line people to have the authority to make decisions. I believe most people want to do the right thing.”
And at the end is the beginning.
“I think the best is yet to come,” he said.C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535