December 20, 2019
2019 Year in Review

Thank you for a great year!

As an eventful 2019 draws to a close, we want to take a moment to look back, to look ahead, and -- most importantly -- to thank you. Thank you for being part of AWB. Thank you for investing in your employees and your communities. And thank you for sharing our mission of being a catalytic leader and unifying voice for economic prosperity throughout Washington state.

January: Legislative Day & Hill Climb connect employers with lawmakers

AWB members connected directly with their lawmakers during the all-new Legislative Day and Hill Climb. For the first time, this event was held at AWB's recently renovated offices, with a quick shuttle up to the Capitol for meetings with lawmakers. 

Top leaders from both chambers and caucuses also spoke directly to AWB members for panel discussions, including updates from the Speaker of the House, Senator Majority Leader, and the minority leaders from both chambers. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal also spoke, along with other top leaders.

The upcoming 2020 Legislative Day and Hill Climb is set for Jan. 28. Register today!

February: AWB News/AWB Amplified spotlights big issues from the legislative session

As we pushed off into the 2019 legislative session, we expanded the AWB News brand that was established in 2018 as we put the finishing touches on our new video studio.

In 2019, AWB News covered everything from predictive scheduling to opportunity zones, and we were on the frontlines when hair stylists descended on Olympia to voice their concerns over legislation involving independent contractors. Then we took it a step further.

And, we introduced AWB Amplified, a video program offering a closer look at more complicated issues. These packages combined the knowledge of our Government Affairs team with our members' voices in the field. AWB Amplified gave our members insight on capital gains tax legislation, proposed B&O tax hikes, and L&I's overtime exemption proposal and more. This new content made a huge impact on our social media channels, blogs and Fast Facts articles, and we look forward to creating even more policy-related content during the 2020 legislative session.

March: Grow Here campaign, Japan trade mission and Workforce Summit highlight a busy month

A new round of AWB's Grow Here employer image campaign launched in March, featuring MOD Pizza, Lampson International and Alaffia.

Like previous installments, the campaign highlighted the ways in which Washington employers are improving lives and strengthening communities.

The same month, AWB led its first-ever foreign trade mission to Japan, taking 34 employers and state officials to visit the Washington's third-largest trading partner. The employers came from diverse industries and the trip was packed with policy discussion on international trade, infrastructure, the 2020 Summer Olympics and the business of Major League Baseball.

And the month brought together employers of all sizes and types for a dynamic Workforce Summit, where we looked at ways to help employers attract the next generation of effective, engaged employees.

April: Legislature adjourns and AWB releases major infrastructure report

State lawmakers adjourned on time in 2019. The biggest item to come out of the session was the state budget, which spends about $52.4 billion over two years. That's a 17.5% increase over the previous two-year budget. While the budget includes new business and occupation taxes on certain services, a capital gains tax was defeated.

Employers spoke out strongly against the capital gains tax in 2019, through new venues such as AWB Amplified, a long-form video news package. Hair stylists and cosmetologists also spoke up loudly in the 2019 session when changes to independent contracting and flexible schedules threatened their way of doing business.

Notably, local chambers of commerce and AWB ran newspaper ads late in the legislative session to question the need for new and higher taxes in addition to new state revenue. The message got through to lawmakers, and spurred new conversations between Olympia and employers around the state.

AWB also highlighted the need for strong infrastructure to support Washington's economy and communities in April. An updated special report estimates that Washington's infrastructure needs $222 billion in new investments, from roads and rails to ports and clean drinking water projects.

The report was once again issued by AWB in conjunction with the Association of Washington Cities, the Washington State Association of Counties, and Washington Ports. It's a message that Washington's private and public sectors continue to work together to build a strong foundation for the future success of the state.

May: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at Spring Meeting

In what might have been AWB's biggest event ever, more than 400 people heard from former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley at the Spring Meeting in Spokane. After speaking about her life, Haley sat down with Kim Smith, vice president and general manager of Boeing Fabrication, to answer questions about her experience and perspective.

Earlier in the evening, Haley joined about two dozen AWB members and state leaders for a Women's Leadership Roundtable, an informal and conversational opportunity for employers to talk with Haley about a wide range of topics.

Bill Conerly, who has a Ph.D. in economics from Duke University, opened the day with a lunch keynote address on a regional, national and global economic forecast that included practical tips for businesses to employ in the days ahead.

There were also discussions of state politics (with panels of top legislative leaders and the directors of several major state agencies), transportation, business leadership (with a dynamic CEO panel) and much more in an event themed "Connecting Communities."

June: Preparing for excellence

We spent June sifting through nominations for our slate of awards, including the Manufacturing Excellence Awards and the annual Evening of Excellence. Some of the awards are limited to AWB members, while others are open to all Washington employers.

Nominations are open year-round with a June 30 cutoff, which means that you can nominate your company or another quality Washington employer for AWB's 2020 awards. Learn more and download the nomination forms here.

July: Coming together for housing solutions

AWB organized and co-hosted a new collaborative event, a statewide Housing Forum with more than 200 attendees from a wide variety of groups. Opening remarks from U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and state Rep. Andrew Barkis kicked off the daylong discussion and echoed a common mantra that solving the workforce housing problem will take bipartisan cooperation and a willingness to forge non-traditional partnerships. This sentiment was appropriate as the event was hosted by an unprecedented coalition composed of AWB and nine other groups from throughout the state.

Discussions covered the cost of building a home, navigating regulations and permit costs, infrastructure, land use and more. University of Washington professor James Young warned that without concerted and effective effort, Washington faces the kind of housing crisis that has prompted many people to leave California. Joseph Tovar, a longtime land use planning expert, discussed the history of the state's Growth Management Act and what might be ahead in his keynote address, covered by TVW News.

The work to find solutions will continue in 2020 with a follow-up Housing Forum.

August: Making connections at the Federal Affairs Summit

More than 150 employers, legislators, members of Congress and others came together in August at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the Tri-Cities for the AWB Federal Affairs Summit. Discussion addressed the federal issues that impact Washington's economy and quality of life, from infrastructure to international trade. PNNL provided an excellent venue for the event and served as a reminder of the importance of the federal installations to Washington's economy.

One of the many highlights from the event was listening to U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer and Dan Newhouse's wide-ranging panel discussion on bipartisanship, moderated by AWB President Kris Johnson. Newhouse and Kilmer are from different political parties, but they share a lot in common. They have both spent time in each other's congressional district meeting constituents and learning about issues. And they are both engaged in efforts in Congress to find bipartisan solutions. In a divided time, the message of bipartisan cooperation to create results for Washington was well-received. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also highlighted bipartisan work to complete the Yakima Basin Project.

The keynote was delivered by Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. U.S. Reps. Kim Schrier and Suzan DelBene also provided remarks. AWB hosted a reception at the Washington State University Wine Science Center on Monday evening, which allowed employers and lawmakers to mingle and connect over one of Washington's most popular export products.

September: Bipartisan voices from the White House and a push for quality child care at Policy Summit

From a bipartisan pair of White House chiefs of staff to a wide-ranging look at issues like tax fairness and economic vibrancy, the 2019 AWB Policy Summit brought together employers and political leaders to move Washington forward.

During a time of national division, it was refreshing to hear a message of unity and comity from the former chiefs of staff to President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. Despite political differences, the two described ways of getting along and pushing forward.

Also at Policy Summit, the AWB Institute unveiled a new report, "The Mounting Costs of Child Care: Impacts of Child Care Affordability and Access to Washington's Employers and Economy." The report was based on a survey of 400 Washington households with children under the age of 6. The findings confirm what many families already know: finding high-quality child care is difficult, and when available, it's expensive.

That report was part of a long-term push by a diverse coalition of groups, with AWB helping lead the way, to find solutions to Washington's child care affordability crisis. That work continues (we have been all over the state during the past month, from Aberdeen to Spokane, to make connections and find solutions). Contact AWB's Amy Anderson to become involved.

October: Crossing the state to celebrate manufacturing

The third-annual AWB Manufacturing Week bus tour covered 2,355 miles and 39 stops as AWB members, elected officials and members of the media told the story of Washington's diverse manufacturing sector. From the first stop in Vancouver, at a maker of silicon wafers for microchips, to the final stop, at a grower-owned hops processing plant in Yakima, the wide variety of products Washington makes and produces was front and center. The trip resulted in significant media coverage, from TV news and radio to local newspapers.

The trip also was a chance to personally meet and congratulate the winners of the 2019 Manufacturing Excellence Awards, including the Manufacturer of the Year, Feed Commodities in Tacoma.

Manufacturing is key to Washington's economy. More than 7,600 manufacturers across the state support 287,000 jobs, creating $59 billion in economic output. That's 12 percent of the state's total, with positive impacts in nearly every community in the state.

AWB President Kris Johnson made that case in a newspaper column that went to print as the AWB bus was rolling across the state: "It's time to celebrate the amazing things Washington makes."

November: Grassroots Alliance reaches 90 members, and Evening of Excellence hosts biggest crowd yet

AWB's Grassroots Alliance crossed a major threshold this year when it reached 90 members. The statewide coalition began as just an idea in 2014. Today, the alliance includes members in every corner of the state, from Grand Coulee Dam to Skamania County and communities large and small.

The Grassroots Alliance strengthens the voice of the employer community. It also enables better communication between AWB and local chambers, and creates new opportunities for chambers to get involved with the state and federal policies that impact their members.

AWB set another record in November with the 2019 Evening of Excellence, when more than 220 entrepreneurs and business leaders honored the achievements of Washington's employer community. It was the biggest celebration yet to recognize the work of private employers to improve Washington's economy and quality of life. In lieu of welcome gifts for attendees, AWB made a donation to the charity of the group's choice (as determined by a live vote held by smartphone). AWB delivered a $2,500 check to the winner, Seattle Children's Hospital, earlier this week. The donation was made during their annual telethon, and was nearly tripled thanks to matches from callers.

December: Biggest ever D.C. Fly-in, and Holiday Kids' Tree posts breakout year

This month began with AWB leading its largest ever trip to Washington, D.C.

The sixth-annual D.C. Fly-in included talks with ten members of Washington's congressional delegation, including both U.S. senators. It also included meetings with the embassies and trade departments of Japan, Great Britain and Vietnam. AWB members were even taken on a tour of the U.S. Senate floor, courtesy of former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton.

Less than 24 hours after the plane from D.C. landed in SeaTac, it was time for another longstanding tradition: AWB's lighting of the state's holiday tree.

More media coverage and stronger donations marked the 2019 Holiday Kids' Tree Project as among the best yet.

The generosity of AWB members and individual donors allowed AWB President Kris Johnson to hand out grants totaling $20,500 to 19 rural fire districts in December. The funds were used to purchase clothing, food and household goods for families in need all over the state.

Firefighters traveled from all over Washington to receive the grants, and a bag of toys, from Johnson in the State Reception Room at the Capitol. The firefighters purchase and wrap the gifts, and often deliver them in person to families that need a break.

"A lot of times it's a surprise for the children," said Nick Bacon, a firefighter from the Asotin County Fire District No. 1.

And so from all of us at AWB, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and thanks for your support. We'll see you in 2020!

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Publication Highlights

Legislative Review

Infrastructure Report

Child Care Report

The Power of Manufacturing

Businesses Built for More

Trade Mission to Japan

Unlimited Horizons

2020 Events Calendar

Mark your calendars and join AWB for these upcoming events in 2020.

Legislative Day &
Hill Climb

Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020
Olympia | Capitol Campus &
AWB Offices

11:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Reception to follow at the Capitol Rotunda

Full details and register

Workforce Summit

Thursday, Mar. 19, 2020
Location TBD

Details and register

Spring Meeting

May 13-14, 2020
Davenport Grand

To receive notification and best pricing when registration opens, sign up with your email address here: 2020 Spring Meeting

Policy Summit

Sept. 15-17, 2020
Cle Elum
Suncadia Resort

Register Early & Save!
$495 Full package for a limited time. Members only.

*schedule details subject to change. Check the AWB online events calendar for the most up-to-date information.