Start of fall marks a new year for the Seattle Metro Chamber

By: Diana Birkett Rakow, Chamber Board Chair Posted: 09/28/2020

A message from our Chamber Board Chair Diana Birkett Rakow

Hello Seattle Metro Chamber members,

This has been a year unlike any other. As we launch into fall, the back-to-school logistics, unique football season, wildfires, protests and injustice have reminded us of that over and over. There is challenge, and there is pain. But there is also joy; as I talked with Edouardo Jordan about at our Annual Meeting last week, there is joy in moments of connection and in knowing our hard work can provide our kids with opportunity.

As a business community, we’ve seen store closures and moves, policy complications, but also resilience and creative pivots. We’ve seen people come together to support one another, to buy local and from minority-owned business. It is in these bright spots that we will rebuild and recover. They show us our shared humanity, potential, and strength. The members of this Chamber collectively reflect such brightness, especially in the ways you’ve adapted and taken care of employees, customers, communities and each other.

This week would have marked the end of my term as your Board Chair. But as we prepared to hand off the “gavel,” so to speak, incoming chair Susan Mullaney shared leadership wisdom that stable leadership could benefit us through so much change and asked me to stay on. So here we are together. I’m honored to serve you a bit longer and incredibly grateful to the Chamber Board and team, including interim CEO Markham McIntyre. These leaders have stepped up to navigate through change, champion and deliver for business, and make us stronger for the future by:

  • Responding with clear, factual, and timely information to help businesses navigate the pandemic.
  • Providing relief, including a $425K relief fund for small businesses to cover PPE and health benefits, partnerships and distribution of millions of PPE around the Puget Sound, and incubation of the Housing Connector program that enabled over 1,000 people to move into stable homes.
  • Driving recovery through research and advocacy at every level of government to rebuild a competitive, equitable, and resilient regional economy. Two new reports developed with Community Attributes in March and July provide clear, relevant, and useful economic data on the economic impacts of the coronavirus on our region, and there is much more work to come.
  • Advancing racial equity through learning and action. We pledged to be an anti-racist organization with specific actions to drive change and established an Equity Committee to hold us accountable to this work and to create practical and impactful tools for all of us working to address diversity, equity, and inclusion in our businesses and our workplaces. And we welcomed the largest and most diverse class of incoming Seattle Metro Chamber Trustees. This essential work will continue as a lens on everything we do to support rebuilding our economy.

This year, the bar for leadership in all sectors has been raised. We are grappling with multiple and interconnected crises – public health, economic, racial injustice – with an imperative to rebuild jobs and opportunity in our region in an inclusive and resilient way. Your Chamber is dedicated to recover and use this moment to reimagine and redesign a business climate that works for you, for your employees, for their families, and for the jobs and talent we can preserve, develop, and create for a stronger future.

This means ensuring a regulatory environment that enables creative, innovative and adaptive businesses of all sizes to succeed, re-grow, create jobs and shape a resilient future. Sharing data and your stories, so leaders throughout our region can operate from a common set of facts about what businesses want and need to rebuild. And providing resources and tools, including services like our affordable, comprehensive healthcare for small businesses, to help you operate day to day.

This means advocating for affordable housing, transportation, childcare, public safety, education and internet access that enables kids and adults alike to stay connected, to continue learning, and to be ready for today’s challenges and opportunities. And it means ensuring our region and state are having the difficult and complex debates needed to establish a financial model that works for jobs and families alike.

Our vision for every business is that it has the environment and tools it needs to compete. And our vision for every family is that they have the environment, tools, and opportunities needed to grow their well-being.

We do not have to choose between being a socially, economically, and racially just region, and being a great place to do and grow business. In fact, we must not choose if we want to truly be a region that is inclusive, innovative, and thriving on a global stage.

Last year at the Chamber Annual Meeting – that fading memory of an in-person event – the team had speakers choose a song to play as we took the stage. I chose Macklemore’s Glorious. As songs often do, this one feels apt in a new way today. Ben sings “got a chance to start again… I made it through the darkest part of the night, and now I see the sunrise…” We are still glorious, our home region. But we have work to do. This year’s crises have exposed our shared humanity and vulnerabilities, and our strength to adapt and respond. Let’s use this to come together, face hard things, and rebuild better than before.

Thank you for joining us in this work. Business is at the core of our communities, and our region needs leaders like you. We exist to serve you, to make your lives better and easier, but we also rely on your insights, your experiences, and your ongoing support and engagement with the Chamber to do that as well as possible. Please continue to let us know how we can best serve you.

Sincerely,
Diana

Diana Birkett Rakow (she/her/hers)
Chair, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
VP, External Relations, Alaska Airlines