Tacoma-Pierce Chamber reports a strong year

Even for a group wherein optimism is as much a given as a goal, the news was good on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

“We’ve been busy at the chamber,” said chamber President and CEO Tom Pierson, addressing several hundred guests over lunch at the Bicentennial Pavilion in downtown Tacoma.

“2015 was a banner year,” he said.

The chamber saw revenue of $2.2 million and welcomed 329 new members over the fiscal year ending in September. During that year, Pierson said, the chamber can point to several accomplishments:

▪  SpaceWorks Tacoma, which matches artists with entrepreneurship, celebrated five years in business, supported 71 new businesses in Tacoma, awarded grants of $120,000 and launched the 1120 Creative House.

▪  A “Boots to Business” program served 250 veterans pursuing entrepreneurship, while other programs found partners within community programs offering veterans employment information and other transition assistance.

▪  The Chamber championed a $16 billion transportation package over the past year, and that legislation will result in the completion of Highway 167, reducing congestion and adding efficiencies at the Port of Tacoma, while improvements will also reduce congestion near JBLM.

▪  The chamber took the local lead on promoting an increase of the minimum wage to $12 per hour — rather than a proposed $15 per hour.

”There is strength in numbers, strength in unity,” Pierson said.

“I said 2015 would be the most challenging year,” he said, specifically addressing both the transportation package and the minimum-wage proposal.

He noted after the meeting that where the chamber could count 1,100 members when he took office more than four years ago, today the chamber counts 1,700.

“Four years ago we put in a new business model,” Pierson said. “Now, we need to retool again, to make sure we’re serving the needs of our clients.”

His next challenge, he said after the meeting, will see the chamber addressing health care concerns.

“How do we support our health care sector better than we are?” he asked.

In a video presentation at the end of the meeting, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck announced the retirement of longtime chamber staff member Gary Brackett, who has led research concerning — and outreach aimed at — troops stationed at JBLM.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535