Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pierce County PALS/Public Works Taskforce Release Findings

Convening for the last few months at the request of Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps, the taskforce looked at function of Pierce County’s Planning and Land Services (PALS) and Public Works & Utilities (PWU) and suggested improvements. On the taskforce were: Dennis Hanberg of Apex Engineering; Rich Larson of Larson and Associates; Gareth Roe and Don Mellot of BCRA; Kathy Fewins of Investco; John Kanis of P.L.U.; Jim Hanson of the Bethel School District; Bob Damen of Sitts and Hill Engineering; Jan Smallenberg of TriPark Development; and Tiffany Speir of the Pierce County Master Builders Association.

The taskforce was concerned with streamlining the permitting and processing of land use and development entitlements. They investigated how improvements could speed up the permitting process and make it more reliable for users. Major issues identified and the taskforce’s recommendations regarding the organizational structure, systems and processes, code streamlining and the organizational/ leadership culture of both PALS and PWU are highlighted here.

Guest author: Arabie Jaloway-Hill

Friday, October 23, 2009

U.S. Chamber Under Attack Appears on Fox

You may watch FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace this weekend, as U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President, Bruce Josten discusses the U.S. Chamber's position on recent legislation and targeted attacks against the organization.

The U.S. Chamber has been recently singled out for their efforts to protect American jobs, American employers and the economy. And people are taking notice.

Tune in on Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m. ET to hear Josten's remarks on the attacks and the Chamber's steadfast commitment to common sense policies - regardless of partisan politics.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Using Tech to Grow Your Own Success

Still need a website?

The City of Tacoma is presenting Stacy Karacostas, Success Stream Media for the next Economic Gardening Workshop: Build a Website on a Shoestring Budget. This engaging workshop will explain what it really takes to create a business website that works.

This workshop is FREE to any business that is located in Tacoma. See this link for detailed information about the workshop.

Date/Time: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Choose a morning or evening session
8:00am – 10:00am or 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Location: Bates Technical College – South Campus
2201 S. 78th Street, Tacoma, WA 98409, Building E – Auditorium
Refreshments and light snacks will be served

So sign up today!
Register online for the Morning Session (8:00-10:00am)

Register online for the Evening Session (5:30-7:30pm)

To Register by Phone or for questions, please contact Christine Clifford or 253.573.2435.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Shock of the Future

Keynote addresses reason for optimism about Pierce County’s future in the post-neoliberal economy.

Glen Hiemstra, a Kirkland resident with strong ties to the South Puget Sound region, addressed the audience gathered at the Chamber’s 125th Annual Meeting. Hiemstra said the challenge before us is creating our preferred future from an economic present which has been demonstrated to be radically different from the recently imagined economy of the future.

Before delving into the future, Hiemstra drew our attention to the similarly radical changes during the turn of the previous century which witnessed explosive changes in technology and communications. For instance in 1884, the year the Chamber of Commerce began operating, Tacoma moved by foot or horse-drawn carriage. Average life expectancy in the United States was 45 to 47 years old. After-dark productivity required candle or lamplight. Yet, by the late 1920s the automobile had begun its explosive alteration of both the physical landscape and day-to-day commerce and behaviors of American society. Leaps in sanitation and medical care were accompanied by a steadily increasing lifespan. And, by the 1930s, only the most rural populations were left in the dark by sundown. As Hiemstra pointed out, the rapidity with which society has been able to transform itself is a major reason for optimism.

Hiemstra then turned his attention to the present, acknowledging the elephant-in-the-room discomfort that arises when discussing the financial turmoil of 2008-2009. Key elements in his how-we-got-here analysis included the astounding asymmetry in wealth created by certain profit-funneling aspects of the economy. This funneling has led to the ownership of more wealth by America’s top 10% than its bottom 90%. Hiemstra postulated that any system so unbalanced will eventually topple. Seen from his perspective, the events of 2008-2009 were an inevitable move toward adjustment. The question now, Hiemstra said, is “How do we rebuild a balanced economy that retains the fundamentals of free enterprise?”

This question shapes the future that Hiemstra envisions. He argued that we are witnessing a much-needed “economic reset” and pointed to a threefold silver lining. First, new jobless claims peaked in April of 2009. Although unemployment figures are still troubling, he pointed out that the trend line is indubitably decreasing. Second, most manufacturing indices have been on the upswing since mid-summer 2009. Third, the tech sector seems poised for some major breakthroughs, as exampled by Apple’s just reported record profits.

Hiemstra left us with three key words that describe tomorrow’s successful enterprise: smart, simple and sustainable. He gave several examples of the alive-and-well American entrepreneurial spirit, which is particularly well-represented here in the Puget Sound region.

Guest Blogger: Arabie Jaloway, TacomaACTS Coordinator

Monday, October 19, 2009

Option for Reviewing Health Care Options

With two Senate committees, the House of Representatives, White House and other interest groups each involved in creating a health care plan, it is difficult to determine how each would affect individuals and businesses.

The New York Times has an interactive chart for comparing the various plans from these different entities and how each might potentially affect various sectors of the economy.

Meet Vets as Job Candidates

An Opportunity Expo is scheduled to match job-seeking veterans, transitioning military personnel, members of the Guard and Reserve and military family members with hiring employers.

At this event, recruiters for employers, franchisers and educational institutions will meet face-to-face with these highly qualified and highly sought-after candidates. We invite you to join them!

Members of the Tacoma–Pierce County Chamber of Commerce who register to participate in this event are entitled to a 10% discount. To take advantage of this offer, contact RecruitMilitary’s Matt Murphy and mention your membership. Matt can be reached via email or 610-933-3331.

The Expo will be held on Thursday, November 19, 2009 from 11:00am – 3:00pm at the ShoWare Center. Additional details on this event can be found here.

At a RecruitMilitary Expo, you can begin the selection process with what is normally one of the final stages—a face-to-face meeting with the candidate. If you are looking to hire employees this year, or have a franchise/educational opportunity to offer, this is an event you won't want to miss!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Once Again Into the Breach at the Shoreline

Please join Chamber representatives and other businesses for a Shoreline Update Workshop.

When: Thursday, October 29th from 5-7 pm.
Where: Tacoma Municipal Building, Room 16
two entrances: 733 Market St. or 728 St. Helens Ave
Tacoma, WA 98402

The meeting will focus on use, restoration and public access opportunities in our shoreline districts. Please contribute your ideas to help shape the future of our shorelines.

For additional information please contact Chamber representatives or City of Tacoma staff, Stephen Atkinson, or at (253) 591-5531.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Poll: Reid in trouble; Murray next?

Republicans are fighting among themselves in Nevada. While it would appear a positive development for democrats in that state, it isn't. Prospective republican candidates are licking their chops at the opportunity of running against Senator Harry Reid, who is up for re-election next year.

Reid is the Senator Majority Leader for the democratically-held U.S. Senate and his race may be an indicator of the difficulties that lie ahead next year for democrats in general.

A recent poll from the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows Reid trailing potential challenger Rep. Dean Heller, who has indicated he will NOT run.

When poll respondents were asked about their views on Reid himself, 37 percent recognized Reid favorably and 50 percent were unfavorable.

However, Reid plans to raise nearly $25 million for his re-election campaign -- an election that takes place more than a year from now and he can expect help from national interests as well. In addition, democrats can expect support from President Obama, who maintains favorable ratings.

Democrats appear strong in other states including our own. According to polls conducted this year, long-time incumbent Senator Murray appears strong for next year's race. Her favorable numbers are over 50 percent and unfavorable only in the mid-30s. When she is pitted against specific republicans (Reichert, McKenna), her lead is in the double digits.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Evergreen Tacoma Initiative on Cusp

You can be part of the new Evergreen Tacoma Initiative by joining the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce Co. Health Department and the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) at a joint news conference announcing a proposed national model to environmental cleanup.
The Evergreen Tacoma Initiative takes a systematic approach to environmental cleanup by considering an entire area affected by soil and groundwater pollution, rather than by tackling the problem one parcel at a time. A team of representatives from state, county and local governments, private property owners, environmental consultants and other business professionals as well as non-profit organizations will work together to identify the system-wide sources of contamination and develop a cleanup and sustainable re-use plan to prevent re-contamination and enable reinvestment. This initiative will also help to protect Puget Sound.

Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, City Manager Eric Anderson, Dr. Anthony Chen from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Southwest Regional Office Director Sally Toteff from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Chancellor Pat Spakes and representatives from Senator Maria Cantwell’s and Congressman Norm Dicks’ offices are scheduled to speak about this new, next generation approach to environmental cleanup and redevelopment.

The event will be held on the UWT campus in the Tacoma Room at 10 a.m. on Tues., Oct. 13. For directions visit the UWT Web site.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Election Races Tighten

While campaign finances are not the deciding factor in a race, the amount of money a campaign raises and spends is critical. Recent data from the Public Disclosure Commission shows two races in Tacoma are even closer now and a third is beginning to heat up.

From a purely financial perspective, the race for mayor has been close throughout this campaign season.

The Merritt campaign started early and held a lead in contributions for several months until the last couple of weeks. Recent data now shows the Strickland campaign has pulled ahead ever so slightly.

In the race to replace Mike Lonergan, Keven Rojecki's campaign has had a major lead in the amount of money raised. However, Victoria Woodards' campaign has managed to pull somewhat closer.

In the race to replace Connie Ladenburg, who represents the south end of Tacoma, the numbers have been fairly stagnant until the last month. Both campaigns have raised significant amounts of money as the election approaches. Beckie Summers-Kirby has broken the $20,000 mark for contributions raised and Joe Lonergan's campaign can be expected to reach that mark before this election is over.

The key element in all of these campaigns will be how they spend the money over the last few weeks of this election season. The answer will likely detemine the outcome of these three races.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

University Place Debate Video

If you were unable to attend the Chamber's debate between city council candidates running in University Place, a video of the event is available on the City of University Place website or at the link below:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No "Claw Back" on Tacoma B&O Jobs Credit

The Tacoma City Council gets it with the business climate in Tacoma.

The Chamber and other economic development organizations advocated to councilmembers that today's economic climate forces some business, to act against their intentions and wishes, to reduce staff.

The City offers businesses a credit on their B&O tax for hiring and employing for five years jobs at family-wage compensation levels. Due to the current recessionary economic environment that has turned the once pervasive growth scenario on its head, businesses have found themselves unable to keep those desired employees.

Local businesses have recently received letters notifying them that they could be subject to paying back previous years tax incentives if they are not retaining employees for five full years.

The City Council meeting today as a Committee of the Whole, explored this issue as it affects the economic climate of the community. It was their expressed opinion and direction to their staff, to prepare city legislation that would cure what has become a punitive situation.

Businesses should expect correspondence from the City Tax & License department notifying them that any repayment ("claw back") of incentives claimed in prior years, should be held in abeyance until the City Council has the opportunity to act.

The City Council wishes to assist businesses in surviving in this stressful economy. However, Councilmembers expressed that companies deciding to relocate jobs outside Tacoma that were previously claimed for B&O credit, would not be exempt from enforcement "claw back" requirement.

For more information, contact Danielle Larson, Ops Manager, City Finance Department.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Election Guides Released

The Pierce County Auditor and The News Tribune have released their election guides for voters.

The Pierce County Auditor has released the county's voter guide. There are two editions of the guide based upon the voter's zip code. Please use the following information to select your appropriate guide:

Edition 1 98303, 98327, 98329, 98332, 98333, 98335, 98349, 98351, 98388, 98394, 98395, 98401, 98402, 98403, 98404, 98405, 98406, 98407, 98408, 98409, 98411, 98412, 98415, 98416, 98417, 98418, 98419, 98421, 98422, 98430, 98431, 98433, 98438, 98439, 98444, 98445, 98448, 98464, 98465, 98466, 98467, 98490, 98492, 98496, 98497, 98498, 98499

Edition 2 98022, 98047, 98092, 98304, 98321, 98323, 98328, 98330, 98338, 98344, 98348, 98354, 98360, 98371, 98372, 98373, 98374, 98375, 98385, 98387, 98390, 98391, 98396, 98397, 98398, 98424, 98443, 98446, 98447, 98558, 98580

The News Tribune released their annual election guide to the candidates running for office this year. Enjoy the guide by going to the following link: TNT's Guide

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sen. Cantwell's Health Care Amendment passes

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Senator Cantwell was successful in obtaining approval of an amendment that allows states to use federal funds for public health insurance plans instead of providing direct subsidies to low and middle income people.

Senator Cantwell sees the amendment as a public plan that would be negotiated with the private sector.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON --The Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment to health-care legislation Thursday that would allow states to use federal funds to set up public health insurance plans for lower-income and middle-income people.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., would allow states to steer funds from the government from the health-care measure to set up plans for those whose income puts them between 133% and 200% of the poverty line. The state plans would then contract with private insurers to provide the coverage.

Cantwell referred to it as "a public plan, but negotiated with the private sector." The amendment was approved by a 12-11 vote, with all Republicans and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D.-Ark., voting against it.

States wouldn't be required to set up the plans. If they did, the amendment encourages them to offer "care coordination" - or greater collaboration among health care providers - as part of an effort to lower costs. Cantwell suggested that the states would have significant bargaining power with their own plans, pointing to an example in her home state, known as the Basic Health Plan.

"This is a way to help the whole nation move towards those kinds of efficiencies," Cantwell said.

Those that would eligible for coverage in a state plan - which Cantwell estimated would be up to 75% of the adult population currently lacking insurance - don't qualify for Medicaid in most states.

Under Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus' health-care bill, they would receive subsidies to purchase health coverage in an insurance "exchange." The Cantwell amendment would allow states to use the value of the subsidies to finance a state health plan, however.

Roughly $200 billion in what would have been spent on subsidies would instead be steered to the states under the amendment, according to Cantwell. She said that "about a dozen states" would be immediately ready to set up the plans. The state plans would attract managed care organizations to areas that don't currently have them, she said.

America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents health insurers, raised questions about the Cantwell amendment in a statement.

AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said the Basic Health Plan in Washington state "has had significant unintended consequences, including budget shortfalls, skyrocketing premiums, waiting lists, and reductions in enrollment."

Zirkelbach said the group doesn't have "a lot of specifics" on the Cantwell amendment right now, but that "a new government-run plan in any form is not necessary."

Leading insurers in AHIP include Aetna Inc. (AET), Humana Inc. (HUM), Cigna Corp.(CI) and UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH).

Cantwell acknowledged the budget shortfall in her state, but said that the state plan was still functioning effectively and that a number of insurers still participated in the Washington state health plan.

"It's been tough economic times, but that's all the more reason that we don't want to see poor people fall through," Cantwell said. "If you don't put a negotiator in the room to negotiate with insurance companies, you are not going to get the rates down."

State minimum wage to remain unchanged

Washington's minimum wage will remain at $8.55 an hour next year.

Initiative 688, which Washington voters approved in 1998, requires the minimum wage to increase to account for inflation. Labor and Industries (L&I) announced that because the Consumer Price Index (CPI) decreased about 2 percent during the past year, the minimum wage will not be increasing for the first time since Initiative 688 passed.

Washington still has the highest minimum wage in the nation.

So if the CPI decreased, why didn’t the state minimum wage? L&I spokeswoman Elaine Fischer, was quoted in yesterday’s Puget Sound Business Journal, the law “doesn’t specify anything about decreasing the minimum wage.”

Big Debate Night in University Place

The University Place-Fircrest Division of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber held its debate last night at the Curtis High School Auditorium with Division President Deanna Cleaveland acting as moderator -- her final action as division president since her term expired today.

All eight of the candidates running for the University Place City Council discussed issues ranging from attracting new businesses and retaining current ones to the Town Center project and the "one quality they will be looking for in a new city manager" (current manager Bob Jean has announced his retirement).

An audience of over 80 people watched the candidates debate and spoke with them afterward at the reception. Photos of the event will be posted here shortly.

The City of University Place will be posting the video of this entire event soon at this link.