Get to know your Federal Way Chamber | Tom Pierson

People will often ask me: What does the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce do? As a member of the community, why should I care if we have a chamber of commerce?

Let me dispel some myths. There is a saying that if you have seen one chamber of commerce, you have seen one chamber of commerce, which simply means that there are a lot of different chambers throughout our region and country.

All chambers have some basic functions but no two are identical. Just like there are similarities between communities, but they all have differences, it is the differences we usually highlight and celebrate. At the heart of the local economy and the backbone of the nation’s economy, you will find a chamber of commerce.

Chambers of commerce are funded by membership dues as well as events, sponsorships, contracts and sales of various products and services. The vast majority of chamber membership is small businesses.

Chambers of commerce are not part of government, though chambers do often partner with government to accomplish the chamber mission.

Today’s chamber of commerce, rather than being narrowly focused on one particular industry, issue, cause or activity, focuses on a broad range of activities and support for both businesses and communities. Chambers of commerce come in all sizes, and there are approximately 7,800 chambers of commerce in the United States.

A strong dynamic business community benefits the entire community. Chambers of commerce directly involve themselves in the community to create the environment where people want to live and work.

The Federal Way Chamber is not your father’s chamber, even though we might be old enough. We were incorporated in 1953. We have a total operating budget of nearly $1 million, 8 professional staff, 500 members and 172 volunteers. We have three affiliate programs: Advancing Leadership, Communities in Schools of Federal Way and Safe City Federal Way. The vision of the Federal Way Chamber is to create a strong local economy through business advocacy in the South Sound region.

This year we started some new programs, such as Federal Way First, whose mission is to support local businesses in the Federal Way area, to maintain our unique community character, provide continuing opportunities for entrepreneurs and build community economic strength. Another new program is the South Sound Young Professionals, connecting younger business owners and employees with the community. We also have created seminars helping businesses get up in a down economy.

Currently, as a nation, we are facing historic times, times that many of us have never seen. We are experiencing a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, which we can predict will continue to rise before year’s end. Consumer credit is tight, business credit is tight, commercial real estate condition is poor, the housing market show signs of a bottom, and we are looking at low growth and a fragile, slow recovery.

The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce believes this means that, as a community, we need to be more collaborative, more innovative, and more focused on growing our local economy than ever before. The Chamber believes that we need to look at economic development differently than we have in the past. We cannot succeed by following the same processes as we have in the past. Tomorrow we will be successful if we make a paradigm shift today.

Therefore, we are focusing more than ever on growing the local economy by working on new initiatives, whether by creating or enhancing partnerships to strengthen our region. We are working on creating a facility that will be a “New Business Incubator” to put people back to work who have been victims of this economy. We are looking at new economic growth sectors such as the possibility to have a “Center for Healthcare Innovation” that enterpriseSeattle is exploring in Federal Way. We are looking at attracting people to Federal Way with a possibility of having an annual International Sand Castle event.

Check it out

I invite you to get to know your chamber of commerce. One way is you can attend an “End of the Year Block Party” that will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Gateway Center, highlighting the center and the many businesses that make this area home. We will have $1,500 worth of prizes to give away. For more information, visit

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