Chamber SVP discusses job creation, economic development with U.S. Senators

By:  Alicia Teel
Source: The Seattle Chamber of Commerce

At the invitation of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, George Allen, the Chamber's senior vice president of government affairs, spoke to members of the United States Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee about ways the Seattle Metro Chamber is working on job creation and economic development. The March 15 meeting was attended by 12 U.S. Senators and their local chamber representative. It highlighted how Senate Democrats and local chambers have successfully worked together to support policies which spur economic growth and job creation in communities across America.

"It’s a pleasure to have the Seattle Chamber of Commerce join us today all the way from the Pacific Northwest," said Senator Cantwell, member of the Senate Small Business Committee. "We are focused on growing our economy and expanding opportunities for the nation’s job creators to grow and hire. Just today, I introduced an amendment with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to reauthorize the Export-Import bank and support Washington state trade and export jobs. We heard a lot of good ideas today and I look forward to taking them back to the Small Business Committee as we continue to work on ways to spur economic growth on Main Street."

Allen shared the results of the Chamber's Job Sector Survey with the committee. Nearly 1,700 employers in the Puget Sound took part in the current survey and the findings speak directly to the needs of nearly every type and size of business in the Puget Sound region.

Allen also discussed the Chamber's first-ever comprehensive federal policy agenda, which is dedicated to increasing engagement with its Washington DC delegation on four key issues: transportation and infrastructure, education and workforce, innovation and entrepreneurship, and international trade.

Upcoming opportunities to address these issues include reauthorizing and raising the lending limit of the Export-Import Bank before it expires on May 31. The Chamber is a strong proponent of this move, in partnership with our affiliate organization, the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT). “We believe that trade creates jobs, particularly when domestic demand is still recovering and 96 percent of customers live outside the United States,” said Allen. “Our survey of regional businesses backs this up: we found that our top four export sectors, which are aerospace, manufacturing, life sciences, and energy, all plan to add jobs in the coming year. The Ex-Im Bank is a vital resource for our state’s internationally focused companies.

The Chamber and WCIT also strongly support including a national freight investment policy in the reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program. Last month, in collaboration with WCIT, the Chamber spearheaded a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt a national freight policy, which 23 more organizations signed as well.

Allen also spoke to the need for sustainable K-12 and higher education systems that provide close alignment between the skills students are taught and what employers around the globe need, as well as addressing the immediate shortage of qualified workers by increasing access to more high-skill immigrants through visa reform. Other federal policy issues mentioned by Allen include protecting intellectual property, passing the Marketplace Fairness Act, and establishing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia before its formal WTO accession this summer.

Opportunities such as this the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee meeting connect Seattle Metro Chamber members with their elected leaders. This is key to our success, as Allen explained to the committee: "Local business operators live everyday with the challenges of growing jobs in the Puget Sound area.  When they share their experiences and aspirations directly with their DC legislators, they are more fully engaged and represented when critical economic development votes are taken.”

For more information about these issues, please contact Eric Schinfeld, the Chamber's federal policy director and president of WCIT, at (206) 389-7273, or Chamber SVP George Allen at (206) 389-7268.