By Rich Hadley, coordinator, AWB Grassroots Alliance
VANCOUVER -- We had sunny skies and some of the best scenery in America when my wife Rita and I left Vancouver last April.
We were in Vancouver for AWB's Executive Committee meeting. Once that was done, we left to cover Southwest Washington and meet local chamber of commerce directors as we headed east across the state to our home in Spokane. My goal was to connect more local chambers with AWB's Grassroots Alliance, a winning partnership for Washington's employer community.
What a great trip. We started on State Route 14 on the north side of the Columbia River. It was a beautiful day as we travelled the gorge, passing by Skamania, North Bonneville and The Bridge of the Gods.
Our first stop was in Stevenson, where we met with Angie Waiss, executive director of the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce. I wanted to be sure and thank her for joining recently. It's great to meet new executives, and so much fun to put a face with a name.
That night we had a tasty beverage at Everybody's Brewing in White Salmon, and tried the amazing Goan Curry Chicken at Henni's Kitchen and Bar. I definitely recommend both.
The next morning, we continued on to Goldendale, north of the river on U.S. Highway 97. We had amazing views of Mt. Adams and dozens of beautiful farms with wheat, hay and vineyards. You could really see the diversity of the area's economy with tourism, timber and agriculture.
We stopped at the Greater Goldendale Area Chamber of Commerce, and met some helpful folks. But we missed Executive Director Dana Peck, and left a message.
Next, we moved on to Toppenish, which is a place I've never stopped before. What an interesting town. There are more than 70 murals in Toppenish that feature historical scenes from the region's Old West past.
I stopped in to say hello to Paul Newman, executive director of the Toppenish Chamber of Commerce.
Like many people in our Grassroots Alliance, Paul is the only paid staffer for the town's chamber. He's fun to talk to and serves as a great example of the kind of community spirit that really provides strong roots for Washington's private sector.
I told Paul maybe I could answer his first question -- it's free. There's no cost for local chambers to join the Grassroots Alliance. AWB is here to offer technical assistance, support and information, and the local chambers can be our eyes and ears on the ground to help us understand how we can help employers in all communities. Paul signed up right away.
On the way home to Spokane, Dana Peck from Goldendale called. Turns out he's from Iowa, like me. We started talking about the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones, and the next thing you know he signed up too.
I've found over many years in business and public life that if you engage people, and start asking questions, there are so many times you have something in common. And isn't that what we wish we had in our politics today?
By the time we got home, we had three new members of the Grassroots Alliance. Today our total is 87. I'm really proud to help get this project off the ground, and connect with so many great advocates for Washington's employers and entrepreneurs. Together we can accomplish great things, and build a strong future for our state.