Gov. Gregoire, local leaders convene to discuss regionalism

In the News, EBRT,

At the Chamber’s most recent session of our Executive Business Roundtable program, Chamber CEO Joe Fain hosted former Gov. Christine Gregoire, the Seattle Chamber’s Rachel Smith, Steve Mullin from Washington Roundtable, and Greater Seattle Partners’ Brian Surratt for a panel discussion on regionalism.

I know what you’re thinking: What does regionalism actually mean? 

In our context, we will rely on our friends at GSP for some language — “The culmination of efforts to support broad-based economic growth throughout the region, and establish a bold vision for greater Seattle’s future.”

With that, each org representative touched on what makes their group stick out — GSP as a sales org for the region, Washington Roundtable as a data hub, and the Chambers as a sounding board for their respective business communities — and how they are tackling broad issues like housing affordability, the healthcare crisis, and workforce development.

Gov. Christine Gregoire, Challenge Seattle

Since its creation in 2015, Challenge Seattle has formed a strong alliance with area nonprofits, employers, and corporations to tackle the BIG issues in King County and beyond. This often means working with her fellow panelists, as Challenge Seattle was crucial in hiring Surratt to “sell” the region, the Chambers are all-hands-in on transportation projects, and Mullin was key in founding the Washington Employers for Racial Equity group. 

“We’re making progress,” she said. “We don’t do publicity about everything we do, all we do is try to get the job done, but we are making progress.”

Steve Mullin, Washington Roundtable

Teasing an upcoming update to its “Path to 70” initiative, Mullin doubled down on his priority of increasing credential attainment across the state. As of now, we are constantly competing with Colorado in terms of who imports more of their talent, and the jobs will just keep coming. 

“Bottom line [is] we have added 500,000 jobs, and another 500,000 are expected by 2030,” said Mullin. “Unfortunately, post-secondary enrollment is very much so trending in the wrong direction.”

“There were an estimated 64,000 fewer resident undergraduate students enrolled at public institutions in Washington state in the fall of 2023 versus the fall of 2019,” he said. “Compared to pre-pandemic, we are down over 10,000 resident undergraduate students at our public four-year institutions, and could be down somewhere around 53,000 students at technical colleges, for a total of 21% decline.” 

Needless to say, easing the primary-to-post-secondary pipeline remains at the top of the Roundtable’s to-do list.

Rachel Smith, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

“I think quality of life issues have taken on a really different role with the business community in the last 5 years,” she said. “Homelessness, public safety, affordability — particularly housing — are all the top things that the business community is concerned about, and at the same time, are also the top things that the voters are concerned about … So, in some ways, I think it is a unique moment in time where I am working on a lot of the same things as I was when I was in government.” 

(Bonus points for: “This is the best business community in the world. Period. Hard stop.“)

Brian Surratt, Greater Seattle Partners

Arguably most reliant on the concept of regionalism is GSP, as much of Surratt’s job is focused around connecting, engaging, and then marketing our increasingly diverse area as a whole that  is greater than the sum of its parts. 

“We are never as a region going to get away from that deep sense of identity of place,” he said. “We have all gotten our heads and minds wrapped around the fact that when we project to the world, we have to be one unit … So part of my job is to take that regional identity and project it, but also never lose sight of what is important to Bellevue, what is important to Redmond, what is important to Tacoma. 

“There is a constant walking of that balance of having this uniform identity without losing our soul.”