Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wanted: University Place City Council Applicants

Ready to go from University Place involved citizen/stakeholder/business owner to local public official? Now's your chance!

For those interested, the City of University Place is currently seeking an applicant to fill the City Council vacancy of Position #7. Just make sure and toss your hat into the ring before noon, Friday, January 8, 2010, the application due date.

Application materials and more information can be found at the City of University Place website.

New Legislative Session

The Washington State Legislature will begin its session on January 11, 2010. This session will be short (60-days) and will focus on trying to overhaul the biennium budget, which currently has a $2.6 billion hole.

At this point, legislators are attempting to find solutions to filling the gap through cuts or new taxes, or a combination of both. While no immediate solutions have garnered support, it can be safe to assume that all are hoping for a recovered economy to help improve the proceedings in Olympia next year and especially when the legislature meets in 2011 to determine its next 2-year budget.

Until then, the legislators will be pondering how to devise a budget that makes steep cuts in health care, human services and education without impacting the users of those services. The alternative to those sharp cuts would be raising revenue through taxes, an action no elected official wants to take during an election year. It is most likely that a combination of those two approaches will be taken.

The Chamber will be working in Olympia to monitor and fend off tax increases that would harm or hinder businesses and job creation. The Chamber will also be conducting its annual “lunch with legislators” sometime in February. If you wish to attend, please go on-line later in January to register at

Friday, December 18, 2009

US Rep. Dicks Cleared of False Allegations

The Office of Congressional Ethics has dropped its investigation into U.S. Representative Norm Dicks and other congressional members concerning alleged misconduct with the defunct lobbying firm PMA Group.

The OCE determined the allegations -- that the lobbying firm had influenced members of Congress to earmark specific defense contracts in exchange for campaign contributions or other items of value -- should be dismissed.

More details on this story are available at the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decision 2010: Tacoma School Levies

Supporters of the levies for the Tacoma School District met with the Chamber's Public Affairs Council to discuss the need for replacing the school district's expiring levy and an additional levy for school facility improvements and upgrades.

The levies will appear on the February 9, 2010 ballot where they will each need one vote over 50 percent of the total vote to pass.

Mayor-elect Marilyn Strickland led off the discussion at the Chamber group's monthly meeting by providing an overview of the package and making the case that "education is a priority in this city." She was followed by representatives from the school district who provided details about the levies and the financial impacts upon homeowners in the district.

The Replacement Levy (Proposition 1) accounts for 22 percent of the district's overall budget for day-to-day operations and education programs, while the School Facilities Improvement Levy will "renovate or replace three schools and make district-wide school facility improvements. More information on the levies can be found at or by contacting Dan Voelpel, who recently joined the school district's Public Information Office, at (253) 571-1015.

The Chamber's Public Affairs Council is considering a position on both of the levies. More information about the Chamber's position on these levies can be found soon at this blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tacoma Voids Tax Clawback

The current economic challenges have forced many local businesses into layoffs that they'd rather avoid.

This is especially true of local businesses that were beneficiaries of the B&O tax offset incentive for hiring of new, family-wage jobs. Some of these businesses were surprised with a cautionary letter from the Tacoma Tax & License office that they would owe the City of Tacoma refunds of these tax offset incentives if the enumerated employees were let go.

The Chamber and EDB brought this hardship on local businesses to the attention of the Tacoma City Council. Councilmembers agreed and developed a repeal of the "clawback" provisions. The effective city legislation, Ordinance 27862, was adopted last night: 8 for yes to 0 (1 vacant) opposed.

Our thanks to the Tacoma City Council for having the vision to incentivize employment growth and to recognize necessary action to support business retention during this challenging economy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WA Unemployment Comp Rises

Employment Security says unemployment insurance tax rates will rise in 2010 for many employers.

Last week, the Employment Security Department began mailing 2010 tax-rate notices to more than 150,000 Washington businesses. The average tax rate in 2010 will be 2.38 percent, up from 1.55 percent in 2009. The 2010 tax rates will range from 0.95 percent to 6 percent.

WashACE reported late last year on all the labor costs in Washington State.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PCEI Broadcast Times and Channels

TV Tacoma is carried on both the Click! Cable TV and Comcast Cable systems.

On Click! TV Tacoma can be seen on Channel 12 in the Tacoma City Limits And in Pierce County, with the exception of University Place, where it is found on Channel 21.

On Comcast, TV Tacoma can be seen on Channel 12 in the Tacoma City limits and on Channel 21 in Pierce County. It is NOT carried on the Comcast system in University Place.

TV Tacoma is also streamed on the Internet at

Optimists or Fatalists

The attendees at the 23rd Horizons economic forecast breakfast, in addition to learning the updates on expected moves in the economy, had the opportunity to share their personal expectations on the economy.

Three questions were asked on a survey offered to everyone. And, about 60 (not everyone answered every question) returned their surveys. In general terms, respondents tended to be optimistic about the future, expecting either better ahead or at least more of the same. Those expecting worse were in the definite minority.

The results:

1. Do you feel that your company's economic fortunes will be better in 2010? For "better", 44.8%, for "same", 41.4% and for "worse", 13.8%.

2. Do you believe your company will have more or less employees in 2010? For "better", 20%, for "same", 56.7% and for "worse", 23.3%.

3. Do you believe your personal economic situation will be better in 2010? For "better", 40.7%, for "same", 40.7% and for "worse", 18.6%.

PCEI Report: Is Your Glass Half-full or Half-empty?

The 2009-2010 Pierce County Economic Index (PCEI) was presented today by Drs. Doug Goodman and Bruce Mann, University of Puget Sound, at the Horizons 2010 economic forecast event of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.


The Pierce County economy did withstand some of the negative effects from the national recession for much of 2008. But growth did slow. Pierce County’s slower growth was significantly better than the national experience principally due to Pierce County’s military and health care sectors.

The slowing Pierce County economy in late 2008 indicated more problems on the horizon. The Pierce County slowdown became a recession in 2009. Economic activity in Pierce County will continue downward, but more moderately as this year comes to a close.

The recession in Pierce County will continue through the first half of 2010. It will come to an end during the third quarter of the year. The current recession then, will be the deepest, longest and most severe in the past forty years.

A recovering U.S. economy combined with expansionary fiscal and monetary programs will help the local economy. Most of Pierce County’s trading partners will be growing again, helping the trade sector. But a stronger dollar will offset some of those gains. Single-family housing activity will improve during the year, as mortgage markets recover and credit becomes available. However, commercial and industrial real estate activity will be depressed for most of 2010. The local health care and military sectors will continue to fuel economic activity, but at a slower rate.

The benefits of the national recovery, increased trade flows, some new military construction spending and a recovering housing market will be enough to offset the negative effects of Russell Investments moving out of the area.

The recovery will strengthen in the fourth quarter of 2010, with the PCEI increasing at an annualized rate of 2.6% providing a solid foundation for the Pierce County economy as 2010 comes to a close.

A feature unique to this recession has been the drop in non-labor market income for Pierce County residents. This significant source of county residents’ personal income will be stagnant in 2010.

The annual average 2009 unemployment rate in Pierce County will be 9.3%. This year-over-year increase will be the largest on record. A difference in this recession is that usually the county rate exceeds the state and national rates and moves up more rapidly. In the 2009-10 recession the Pierce County unemployment rate started below the national and state rates, and then moved up more slowly than they did. Employment conditions in Pierce County remained stronger for longer than they have been in the past

After nearly two years of declining jobs in Pierce County, the economy will begin to generate new employment opportunities in the second half of 2010. Job growth will begin in the third quarter; this growth rate will almost double to 1% in the fourth quarter.

The turnaround in the second half of the year, though, will not offset the job losses in the first half. The net job loss in 2010 will mark the third consecutive annual decline in Pierce County.

All three retail sales drivers (income, confidence and credit) became worse during the current recession. It is no surprise that retail spending growth in Pierce County turned negative, and that spending fell below last year’s forecast.

For 2009, retail spending in Pierce County will drop by 7.5%, a loss of $415 million dollars from 2008. When adjusted for inflation, real retail sales in 2009 will be down by about 7.5%. For 2010, dollar retail volume will exceed 2009 by 2%. A total of $5.2 billion will be spent in the county during 2010 – up by $100 million from 2009.

As the Pierce County recovery takes hold, total personal income will begin increasing in 2010. Total personal income in Pierce County will increase by 5.7% in 2010, a gain of $1.5 billion. However, much of the added purchasing power will be eroded by inflation. In 2010 income growth will exceed the population increase, so per capita income will rise. The average resident’s income will move up to $34,700, a gain of 3.7% from 2009.

The First Time Home Buyer tax credit, a recovering local economy, attractive financing options and bargain-priced units will continue to push up single-family housing activity in 2010. For this forecast horizon, the multi-family housing market will remain fairly flat.

The commercial real estate outlook for this forecast horizon is mixed. The most significant challenge will be competition from the north. Local owners will have to be willing to make concessions.

Both in absolute terms and relative to the region, the industrial real estate market in Pierce County was strong through 2009. However, new demand is likely to be soft at best, during this forecast horizon.

2010 will see a further decline in volume for the Port’s international container business, as the major carrier and service string adjustments made in 2009 will now be felt over an entire year. For 2010, container volume will decline an additional 15.4% from 2009 levels, due solely to international trade declines. Domestic volume will be flat. The Port’s breakbulk and auto lines of business are projected to have little or a very low 1% growth in 2010.

At both the beginning and the end of the program, emcee and sponsor Jonathan Hensley, Pres., Regence BlueShield, asked attendees to determine if their glass was half-full or half-empty, and how to make it that way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Facts & Myths - Health Care Reform last week distributed to its membership across the nation, including Washington state, a broadcast encouraging them to contact local chambers including your Chamber.

Their misleading message was that your Chamber was helping to “kill health reform” through its membership in the U.S. Chamber. They have urged your Chamber to quit the U.S. Chamber.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber maintains its membership in the U.S. Chamber because it is an effective voice on a wide range of issues critical to the success—even survival, of business and the free enterprise system. They have recently launched a $100 million campaign in support of the American Free Enterprise System.

In addition to business advocacy, the U.S. Chamber provides research on issues, staff expertise, training for local chamber staff in organizational management and an accreditation program for recognition of local chamber operational excellence.

Your Chamber, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, continually works to offer benefits and an advocacy program to our members.

Our advocacy consists of working with partners at the state level, like the Association of Washington Business’ coalition of business partners for quality health care. And, we work together within our own legislature for health care and other community issues. (TEACH agenda link)

Our advocacy also includes our efforts at the federal level as during the annual Washington to Washington, D.C. delegation. On the last trip, health care was among our select community issues.

Enter your comments below to share your concerns and positions on business advocacy for health care reform.

Monday, December 7, 2009

General Election Results

This campaign season saw the usual unopposed incumbents, a number of surprise victories against incumbents, and quite a few open seats up for grabs. The result of the 2009 elections will be a greater mix of newer elected officials with incumbents. But before we review those results, let's review the state and local initiatives on the November ballot.

Initiative 1033, which was introduced by Tim Eyman, went down to defeat, while Referendum 71 passed by a narrow margin. Referendum 71 grants state registered domestic partners in Washington state with all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples as passed by the state legislature.

At the county level, both Propositions 1 and 2 were rejected, while Proposition 3 was approved. The Chamber had recommended to its members the exact result of the election i.e. reject Props 1 and 2 and pass Prop 3.

At the Port, Connie Bacon and Dick Marzano easily won re-election, while Foss Waterway and Chamber member Don Meyer won his race for the open seat on the commission.

In the Tacoma elections, Tacoma City Council Member Marilyn Strickland will be the next mayor. In the race to replace Mike Lonergan, Victoria Woodards from the Metro Parks Board won against Keven Rojecki. In the race to replace Connie Ladenburg, who represents the south end of Tacoma, Joe Lonergan went on to defeat Beckie Summers-Kirby.

In Fircrest, we see the first of a trend in our area. Many incumbents lost in their bids for re-election. Half of the Fircrest council was unopposed, so Mayor McVay and Chris Gruver will return. In the contested races, incumbent Matt Jolibois was re-elected while incumbent Hans Hechtman was not. Denny Waltier will be sworn-in and will begin serving in January.

The trend against incumbents continued in University Place. In position 1, one of the founding members for cityhood – Linda Bird – lost in her re-election bid to Javier Figueroa. The same event happened to incumbent Lorna Smith who lost to Eric Choiniere. However, Ken Grassi did not suffer the same fate. He remains on the council after obtaining 72% of the vote in his race for Position 4. However, Ken Grassi did not suffer the same fate. He remains on the council after obtaining 72% of the vote in his race for Position 4. University Place did have an open seat for Position 5, which was won by Denise McCluskey against her opponent Rose Ehart.

In the Lakewood elections, the trend changes since the majority seats available were open with no incumbent running for re-election.

Mary Moss was elected to the open seat on the Lakewood city council as well as Jason Whalen (67%) and Mike Brandstetter (58%). The only incumbent, Doug Richardson, running for re-election for the Lakewood council, easily won with no opposition.

Special note: Mary Moss works at Harborstone Credit Union and has been an active Chamber member for years.

A very special note: Ray Tennison was re-elected to the University Place School Board. Ray is the immediate past Chair of the Chamber and been extremely active in the Chamber for nearly two decades.

As a business organization the Chamber celebrates these recent victories and its involvement in the process. This year the Chamber enhanced its education program for its members and the business community at large. The Chamber held two debates and provided numerous updates to its members throughout the campaign season. In addition, many Chamber's members were involved in local races this year. In some cases, Chamber members ran for office (Moss, Campbell, Tennison, etc.)

In 2010, the Chamber will maintain strong working relationships with public officials and establish good relationships with newly elected officials. The Chamber's members should know that the Chamber will continue to be active in the legislative arena.

Public Officials Thanked

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber saw its largest turnout for its annual Public Officials Holiday Reception, which was held on December 3 at the Washington State History Museum. Over 150 attendees joined the Chamber in thanking public officials for their service on behalf of the community.

The event was sponsored by TrueBlue, Brown & Brown, the Boeing Company and the Port of Tacoma with MultiCare and Rushforth Construction as the Presenting Sponsors of the night.

Chamber President/CEO David Graybill acted as the master of ceremonies and began with a moment of silence to honor the four Lakewood police officers, Puyallup Council Member George Dill and University Place Council Member Jean Brooks.

He asked the main sponsors to say a few words. Rushforth President Kim Nakamura and MultiCare's CEO and President Diane Cecchettini both spoke about the importance of civic involvement by the business community. Their remarks were followed by recognition for the public officials in the room and a brief speech by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy.

Due to the popularity of this event, the Chamber has already announced it is planning for next year's reception. The tentative itinerary for the 2010 Public Officials Reception is Thursday, December 9, 2010 at the Pacific Grill Events Center from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. If you or your company would like to be a sponsor, please contact Mike Weinman at (253) 627-2175 soon since sponsorships are beginning to fill up already.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forecasting the Recovery released its own forecast for how fast the top 100 larger metropolitan areas would recover from the present recovery.

Our region continues to be viewed positively by those outside the region, with the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro Area ranked #15.

In just a little over a week, the Chamber will present its 23rd annual Horizons forecast of the well-being of the Tacoma-Pierce County area. You may register online for the event here.
Professors Bruce Mann and Doug Goodman, originators of the Pierce County Economic Index will again present their forecast for our community. They will be joined by well-known and respected Dr. John Mitchell, M&H Economic Consultants, for his regional and national forecast.

But, what do you think of our speed toward recovery? Give us your insight on the local recovery by participating in the instant poll survey in the left-hand column of this blog.