Education IS Economic Development

By Andrea H. Reay CEO/President Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce When I first started working in and with community organizations focused on economic development most of my colleagues and partners did not understand the link between education and economic development. There might have been a cursory awareness that most people realized that the more education a student received the higher their life time earning potential would be. But there was still a separation between who should be involved and dedicated to education and workforce initiatives and why. I’m happy to say that times have changed. Today, most businesses recognize just how important investing in education and workforce programs are and are committed to providing leadership with real outcomes that benefit our community. So why the shift? Simply put, we are running out of workers. Businesses that would like to grow and expand in our region are limited because they cannot hire enough people to increase productivity. Unemployment is at an all-time low here in the Pacific Northwest. That is an excellent indicator of just how strong and robust our regional economy is. However, there is still a disconnect between the family wage jobs available in our community and the workers with the skills necessary to take those jobs. There is a workforce shortage, and equally at play is a skill shortage. Our Chamber is dedicated to building that bridge and to find an end to end, business led solution to both the worker and skill shortage. That is why we launched our Success Foundation late last year. With less than a year of activity and work we have identified several key partners and stakeholders to leverage our commitment to both our businesses and our community and truly raise the tide for South King County. How are we doing this? We’re building a workforce coalition of members and partners. The Workforce Innovation Network (W.I.N. for short) was formed because we all win when our businesses can grow, and our community is rightfully employed. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” We’re also launching an Exploring Post with Scouts BSA this summer to introduce our local youth to a world of work outside their immediate frame of reference and experience. Together, with our members and partners we will inspire, mentor and coach our next generation of leaders. This work is necessary. This work will provide sustainable economic development and lift our community out of poverty in just one generation. But we cannot do this work alone. At this time of year, when we are all looking to give back to our community and refocus how we spend our time, talent and treasure, I encourage you to reach out to us to learn more about our Education and Workforce Initiatives here at the Chamber. Maybe your business is interested in joining our coalition? Maybe you have time and could volunteer at our Exploring Post this summer? Maybe you have money left in your budget to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year? Any and all help is much appreciated and will go a long way to ensure that our community is ready to meet any and all future challenges. For more information about our Success Foundation and the specific initiatives, please visit our website, send an email to our Foundation Director, Elizabeth Fitzgerald at or give our office a call (206) 575-1633.
Andrea H. Reay is the President/CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce – “A voice for business, a leader in the community.” Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila since 1988. For more information on the Chamber, including member benefits and resources, please visit

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