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Association of Washington Business – Updated Weekly

Pandemic creates challenges and new opportunities for Washington workforce

Washington's workforce shortage was a challenge before the pandemic, and is even more so now – but there are also new opportunities, experts told an in-person and virtual crowd at AWB's Workforce Summit 2.0 last week in Tacoma.

Topics included remote work, diversity and inclusion, federal workforce development bills, hiring of those with previous criminal justice system involvement, and more.

Britt Provost, executive vice president of people and culture at Accolade Inc., emphasized the importance of employee mental health. She said 47% of employees continue to report negative mental health impacts from the pandemic.

“The world's changed,” Provost said. People are going to go to companies that treat them like a human and understand what they've been through, she added.

Read more at AWB News.

Matthew Gardner at 2021 Housing Forum

Housing crisis threatens Washington's competitive advantage, expert says

Washington could lose its competitive edge if the state's housing crisis is not addressed, a leading economist said at AWB's 2021 Housing Forum.

“We have a massive housing shortage,” Chief Economist Matthew Gardner of Windermere Real Estate said.

Some of the top challenges include land, labor, materials and regulations, he said.

The Housing Forum brought policymakers, employers and experts together at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center to explore challenges and seek solutions.

Thursday's Housing Forum was sponsored by Amazon. Amazon has launched a more than $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to support affordable housing in the Puget Sound, Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va.

“Government alone cannot solve this problem, and we do need to work together to make sure that we're addressing issues of housing affordability,” said Catherine Buell, head of community development at Amazon in the Community. “Amazon recognizes that there's a problem and through the Housing Equity Fund we're here to help.”

Read more at AWB News.

Grassroots 100 chambers

Grassroots Alliance reaches 100 members

AWB's Grassroots Alliance has now reached 100 members, a major accomplishment since the network of local chambers and AWB as the statewide chamber was founded in 2014.

The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce in Sultan became the 100th member recently.

The goal of the Grassroots Alliance is to provide a unified voice for employers throughout Washington. AWB and its Grassroots partners are working steadily to create the right conditions so all employers can thrive.

“I want to sincerely thank everyone who's signed up so far,” AWB Director of Strategic Engagement Dru Garson says. “We've got a great network. Our local chambers have done a lot to help our communities and small businesses get through the challenges of the past 18 months.”

Garson added thanks to longtime chamber leader Rich Hadley of Spokane for getting this work started in 2014.

Contact Dru Garson to learn more about the Grassroots Alliance.

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Biden administration to keep Canadian border closed through Aug. 21

Canadians will not be able to enter the United States for non-essential business until Aug. 21 at the earliest, the Biden administration announced last week as the president delayed re-opening the border due to concerns over the Delta variant of Covid-19. That decision came a few days after Canada announced last week that it would allow fully vaccinated Americans to cross into the country on Aug. 9.

Gov. Jay Inslee was critical of the Biden administration’s decision, saying “this continued closure will result in continued hardship for Washingtonians living in border communities, including in Point Roberts.”

2021 Policy Summit

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AWB to host virtual transportation listening session

After crossing the state for nearly a dozen transportation forums from Spokane to Silverdale, AWB will hold a virtual statewide version for members who were unable to attend in person. House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, participated in nearly all of the in-person sessions. Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, the ranking member of the panel, also participated in several of the meetings. Both legislators have been invited to the upcoming virtual session as well.

The final AWB transportation listening session will be held Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. Attendees must register in advance of the meeting. Contact Liv Johnson to register.

Washington slips to No. 9 in CNBC ranking of top states for business

In 2017 Washington topped the nation in the CNBC list of best places to do business, but our state has been sliding since then. After dropping to No. 5 in 2019, the latest CNBC list puts Washington at No. 9 in the America’s Top States for Business list.

One reason for the drop was an increased weight given to Cost of Doing Business, and in this category Washington was ranked at 36th in the nation, earning a C- grade. The state earned a D- in Cost of Living but earned an A in Technology & Innovation. Opportunity Washington has a smart examination of the new report card.

State’s jobless rate stays steady at 5.2% as economy adds jobs

Washington’s economy added 24,100 jobs in June and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate stayed constant 5.2 percent from May to June, according to figures this week from the Washington Employment Security Department. That compares with an unemployment rate of 4.1% in February 2020, before the start of the pandemic.

This marks the sixth straight month of job gains in the state.

Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to merge

Top cancer research and treatment organizations in Seattle announced last week a new approach to cooperation and organization, including a merger of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance into a new independent, private, not-for-profit organization.

The new Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (FHCC) will be a comprehensive cancer center that is clinically integrated with UW Medicine and focused on treating adult cancer patients. They will work closely with Seattle Children’s, which will be the central site for pediatric cancer care.

Spokane Airport CEO Larry Krauter takes chair of national board

Larry Krauter, CEO of Spokane International Airport, took office this week as chair of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), the airport industry’s largest trade association with over 9,000 members.

Report: Lower Snake River dams helped keep electricity flowing during heat wave

The Ice Harbor Dam on the lower Snake River was key to helping the Tri-Cities area weather last month’s record heat wave without enduring rolling blackouts, according to a report from the Bonneville Power Administration.

In addition to keeping the lights on, operators of all four of the four lower Snake River dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite –kept river flows at or above the minimum levels needed for juvenile fish migration during the heatwave, The Tri-City Herald reports. The dams generated from 439 to 1,009 megawatts during the heat wave. At the upper end of production, that’s enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle.

New WGU Washington advisory board member is panel’s first alumnus

Last week WGU Washington appointed Andre Alfred, partner group program manager in the Cloud + AI security division at Microsoft, to serve on the online university’s advisory board. Alfred, who earned a bachelor of science, business - IT management degree from WGU Washington, becomes the first alumnus to join the board.

In other news, WGU Washington’s chancellor, Tonya Drake, just had a timely op-ed published in The Herald of Everett: When you can’t get to college, bring college to you.

AWB’s CompWise retro program welcomes Maria McClain

Maria McClain has joined the AWB CompWise team as the program’s director. Maria has more than 20 years of retro experience, which includes supervising claims teams, implementing return-to-work programs and working closely with employers to help them maximize refund potential and lower overall workers comp costs. She also is currently serving as a member of the Department of Labor & Industry’s Retro Advisory Committee.

As part of Forterra, Inc., AWB’s employer services arm, Maria will oversee CompWise program services and be a key contact for members.

“We’re very excited that Maria is part of our team. With her background and years of experience, she’ll truly be an asset to the program and great resource for members,” said Deb Brown, president of Forterra.

Maria will be reaching out to CompWise participants over the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime, members can reach her at

New golf tournament will help support Kids’ Chance of Washington

The inaugural Kids’ Chance of Washington Golf Tournament will bring together the business, labor, legal and other workers’ comp community members for a day of fundraising and fun on Aug. 5 at Foster Golf Links in Tukwila.

All proceeds raised go toward Kids’ Chance of Washington for scholarships to help the families of workers that suffered a catastrophic work injury. The funds help children and family members pursue their educational and career goals. Learn more and register here. Contact AWB’s Bob Battles to learn more.

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AWB's Holiday Kids' Tree Project

Holiday Kids' Tree project ramps up for 2021

The last 15 months of pandemic hardship have disproportionately affected the finances of many families in rural communities. Thankfully, AWB’s Holiday Kids’ Tree project has been around since 1989 to help families provide for their children.

Last year, record-breaking donations from members like you helped 16 rural fire districts in 14 counties serve 425 families with food and toys. Similar aid will be needed this year, possibly more than ever before.

Grays Harbor Fire District #1 in Oakville reports, “We on the front line get to see how special this is to our community, both to the children and their parents that struggle and lose sleep worrying about how to provide Christmas for their children. Thank you AWB and all those who donated. You all ran the Grinch out of our community!”

As you set your budget for this next year, consider setting up monthly installments or donating now toward this hope-filled effort. Tax-deductible sponsorships are appreciated at any level and participation is highlighted proudly year-round on our contributors’ webpage.

For more information, please contact Bonnie Millikan at 360.943.1600 or


2021 Policy Summit presented by AT&T featuring dinner keynote Earvin Magic Johnson

NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson will headline AWB's Policy Summit

AWB's premier public policy event is back in person – in a big way. The 2021 Policy Summit is moving to Spokane this year and features Earvin "Magic" Johnson, NBA champion, two-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and successful businessman as the dinner keynote speaker. The futurist and neuroscientist Poppy Crum will deliver the afternoon keynote address.

The Policy Summit will be held in-person at the Davenport Grand hotel in Spokane from Sept. 14-16 with a virtual option available. Presented by AT&T, this special event will once again connect employers with policymakers and experts to discuss the challenges that impact Washington's economy.

It's a great chance to reconnect with colleagues and explore solutions to help Washington thrive.

Register early, as this event often sells out.

AWB Rebound and Recovery logo in white text on a blue background image of storefronts

Rebound strong with AWB’s Covid-19 resources

AWB offers the latest guidance to help Washington businesses with a strong economic recovery.

Find answers to human resource challenges, vaccine guidance and employee and customer communications at AWB's Rebound and Recovery website. Updates include guidance from the state Department of Labor & Industries, economic recovery at the local level, and more.

Get connected to outstanding Washington suppliers of personal protective equipment, signs, barriers and more for your business with PPE Connect. Supporting these local employers saves jobs and keeps dollars in the state, which makes our economic recovery faster.

The Covid-19 Resources web page includes answers to frequently asked questions and a comprehensive list of financial resources. Check it out today, and please send suggestions to

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Tweet of the Week:

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“Regulatory fees. Zoning. Permit times.” ~ Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, speaking at the 2021 AWB Housing Forum, when asked about the three issues that policy-makers should focus on solving to help solve the state’s affordable workforce housing shortage.

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