A handful more than 500 business leaders, elected officials and South Sound boosters met Thursday at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center to celebrate the 129th annual meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.
They gathered in common cause to support the extension of state Route 167 (Congressmen Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer both mentioned the project in brief remarks) and not-so-common cause concerning Tacoma’s Proposition 1.
They heard Chamber President and CEO Tom Pierson discuss initiatives including the launch of YEA, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy wherein high school students will learn the rudiments of business, and the current revitalization and success of the chamber itself, with the recent addition of 102 members who bring the total membership above 1,500.
They congratulated outgoing Chamber Chairman Brian Haynes and they welcomed incoming Chair Jeffrey Brown.
They also heard keynote speaker and “economic architect” Mark Lautman discuss “Winning in a New Economic Paradigm,” which has the old model of economic development (recruiting business to the area) shuffling toward something new (recruiting people who will make good employees, who will then attract employers).
“Tacoma is as place where people know how to win,” Lautman began.
And winning will be increasingly difficult as the economy (depicted in a slide showing the Wall Street bull dozing) may be facing “a long, slow growth rate.”
Winners will likely have recognized the “gumption cycle,” which includes elements beginning with “believe” and transiting “think, care, plan and invest” on the road to “succeed.”
However, Americans are not giving birth to enough babies who will grow to populate an adequate supply of workers in the years to come. There is “a looming shortage of qualified workers,” Lautman said. “You’re going to have to steal talent from your competitors. (There will be) a war for talent.”
And we have a chance to win that war. “Most places would kill to have your assets,” he said. “You guys are so well endowed here.”
Following the meeting, Pierson reflected on his nearly two years in office.
“The chamber has become a voice for business,” he said. “We’ve been clear in terms of what we are going to do. I have some people (on staff) who are fearless advocates for Pierce County, people who will fight for this community,”
As chairman of the Western Association of Chamber Executives as well as the local chamber, Pierson noted that business groups must go beyond the social niceties and enter the political arena.
“Chambers that are just networking organizations are not surviving,” he said. “We have to turn toward being aggressive about where we’re going in the next five years.”