Chamber makes connections with other Washington

Business and civic leaders represented Tacoma-Pierce County’s economic interests in Washington, D.C. May 13-15 during the 18th annual Washington to Washington D.C. trip. The 2003 delegation was led by Chamber Chair Joe Wilczek, president and CEO of Franciscan Health System.

The Washington D.C. trip originated in the mid-80s as a strong indication of community interest in and support for Pierce County military installations.

Other communities across the nation had been doing Washington D.C. “fly-ins” to show support for their military installations, but Tacoma’s efforts were always more low key. Congressman Norm Dicks suggested that a D.C. trip by our area’s leaders would be important in the long run as military budgets shrunk. Congressman Dicks has been instrumental in assuring that our voice is heard in the pentagon and in state delegation offices. Later, the trip’s agenda expanded to include priorities on the regional business and civic agenda. In addition, as redistricting brought military bases into Congressman Adam Smith’s District, Congressman Smith embraced the Chamber’s efforts.

Our Chamber group lobbied for basing of C-17s at McChord AFB and showed strong support for bases throughout the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. BRAC also spoke up for private sector housing and improved benefits for military families. These defense initiatives have provided multi-million dollar paybacks for our community. Advocacy for business issues included transportation funding, NAFTA/Trade Promotion Authority adoption, tax and regulatory relief issues for small business and support for the establishment of a national nuclear waste repository.

These trips have recently placed emphasis on the economic impact and potential of our military “transformation” activity at Ft. Lewis. The D.C. delegation hopes to leverage regional spin-off activity that complements Tacoma-Pierce County’s long-term interests in technology research and manufacturing.

Delegates paid their own expenses for this annual trip and committed to a rigorous schedule of meetings and briefings. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s trip is one of the most consistent and long-standing “Chamber fly-ins” in the nation. Our group is well known in many offices and is on a first name basis with key staff and officials.

With BRAC on the horizon again for 2005, and economic slowdown impacting many businesses, there was much to discuss in the nation’s capitol this year. Delegates also attended Congressman Adam Smith’s 9th District Day event on May 15.

This year’s agenda included a Pentagon visit to discuss defense priorities and plans for our area, and a visit to the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) headquarters to hear the latest concerns for our troops and their families.

Briefings for key small business and economic growth initiatives, such as tax and regulatory reform, were received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce staff specialists.

Office visits to our Washington Congressional delegation spotlighted issues of regional and local concern, including transportation funding for vital infrastructure, estate and staff tax issues and healthcare cost containment.
The Chamber’s “Power Through Connections” brand helps capture the spirit of the organization. The Washington, D.C. trip provided an excellent link to the key issues and opportunities that help empower our area’s businesses and defense installations.

David Graybill is the president and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. His column will appear every month or so in the Index.