To BRE or not to BRE

Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO says business retention is a top priority.

Ok, it’s not Shakespeare, but as a chamber of commerce executive, I can tell you that a Business Retention & Expansion program is a key component to economic development.

Because 80 percent of new jobs are created by existing businesses, retaining the companies that are currently in the South Puget Sound and fostering their growth is a top strategic priority of the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. After all, existing businesses are already in the best position to create jobs and expand the tax base.

It’s easy for retention and expansion programs to get lost in the wake of business attraction efforts, particularly if the focus is on landing one very large corporation. Just look, for example, at what happened across the country when Amazon signaled its search for new digs. Steady economic development, however, is seldom on such a sexy, global scale. Rather, it comes from the stabilizing force of companies currently invested in a community as their expansion tends to keep pace with steady infrastructure and workforce planning.

As the chamber looks at what is on the horizon, we recognize the necessity of identifying industry clusters in the greater Federal Way area. Clusters have interlinked networks and tend to share common strengths and weaknesses that drive their economic activity. Once addressed, meeting the needs of one business in a cluster often ends up meeting the needs of many — and the entire network becomes stronger.

In addition, retention and expansion programs also help to determine what new industry segments align with the existing business base which, in turn, support attraction efforts in the city, region and state.

The capital budget that recently passed in Olympia included a grant to the Greater Federal Way Chamber to develop a BRE program. The program will identify industry clusters as well as develop, organize and implement data-driven economic strategies based on outreach to the existing business base. We plan to engage business owners and other stakeholders to delineate operational, site, infrastructure, workforce and other retention and expansion needs.

Managing the Federal Way area as a destination that welcomes business investment, as well as visitors to the South Sound, is part of the chamber’s vision for economic growth. It is a privilege to have legislators who share the vision of Federal Way as a thriving hub in our business corridor. On behalf of the business community, I want to thank District 30 Reps. Kristine Reeves and Mike Pellicciotti, and Sens. Mark Miloscia and Joe Fain.

For 65 years, business leaders at the chamber have been working with our partners to create economic prosperity in the region. That passion for sustainable growth continues today. We are a community on the move and we are open for business.

Rebecca Martin is the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. She can be reached at martin@federalwaychamber.com.

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