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President's Column

Friday, April 5

Built for more

By Kris Johnson

Washington employers are entrepreneurs who build their companies for more than the product they make and the services they provide; they build them to fulfill their values of community, compassion and conscience.

That’s the message behind “Grow Here,” the multi-media employer image ad campaign from the Association of Washington Business.

In it’s third year, Grow Here’s goal is two-fold: To highlight the “why” that motivates Washington companies and share the employee experience within those businesses. And, to remind people that Washington state’s competitiveness — its ability to attract and retain employers — is critical to an economy that works for all residents.

To illustrate those goals, AWB takes closer a look at three very different companies and how they are improving lives and supporting communities – here and around the world.

A fast-growing company, MOD Pizza, is giving justice involved individuals and those recovering from addiction a second chance to gain meaningful employment and rebuild their lives.

In Kennewick, Lampson International, the company that builds some of the largest construction cranes in the world, has literally helped build the community by donating cranes to lift hydroplanes in an out of the Columbia River during the annual Columbia Cup as well as structures including the local high school sports stadium.

And in Tumwater, Alaffia, a fair-trade skin-care product manufacturer, is waging a war against poverty in the small nation of Togo, West Africa, one job at a time.

It’s not “business as usual” for Washington state companies.

We’ve heard time and again how private enterprise is used as a catalyst for good, both for the people of the state and the environment.

There are many reasons to tell the employer story but one of the most important ones is that policy makers — at every level — often craft policies that have unintended consequences. Those policies may end up hurting some of the underlying work a business is doing, work that’s about not about the bottom line but about doing good.

Telling the story can help lawmakers understand how their actions may hurt job creation, but also impact social good within a community.

For example, when lawmakers talk about raising taxes or creating new ones to generate more money from the “wealthy,” small, family owned businesses almost always get ensnared, too.

Take the 67 percent business and occupation tax increase proposal in the Legislature right now. It would hit service-sector employers, including small healthcare clinics, impacting their ability to serve those most in need and to fulfill their values-driven and philanthropic missions.

In its first year, AWB’s Grow Here campaign highlighted Nucor Steel Seattle. It’s the cleanest and greenest steel mill in the world. It upcycles steel scraps, melting and molding them for reuse in buildings, the Seattle Tunnel Project and more. Without Nucor, Washington would need to import steel, creating a hefty carbon footprint.

As a Nucor employee put it, “You can’t make the argument that getting steel from Oregon, Utah, California or China is going to be greener than getting it from your neighbor in West Seattle. For us, sustainability is about maintaining living wage jobs and it’s about being good environmental stewards.”

That’s the power of private enterprise – entrepreneurs see a need and fill it. They take to heart community values and they live them. They see a need in their community, and they serve it.

For every story highlighted in the Grow Here campaign, there are thousands more that go untold. We should all feel proud to support the industries and companies that make our communities great places to raise a family, find a good job and enjoy the beauty around us.

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