The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
The Association of Washington Business (AWB) has a talented new leader who has his hand firmly on the pulse of our state economy. Kris Johnson spoke to over 200 business and community leaders at our annual meeting earlier this week. He talked about key issues facing our state economy and announced that AWB is working with the Washington Roundtable and the Washington Research Council to craft a plan that helps the entire state prosper.
Innovation is critical to economic growth these days and Washington gets high marks for patents and cutting edge companies. At the same time though Johnson said that we must do a better job supporting manufacturers in our state. This sector generates tremendous wealth but is facing significant talent shortages. AWB is one of many organizations that are working to raise visibility towards the good jobs and careers in this industry.
Workforce issues affect our entire economy not just manufacturers. Johnson said there is a "Silver Tsunami" unfolding across the country. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of older Americans will double. Six thousand baby boomers are retiring each year and there are not necessarily the skilled younger workers in place to fill these positions. In this environment there is now a talent war among the states as companies increasing are choosing new factory locations based on availabilty of qualified workers. Kris said that many businesses are creating jobs again but they cannot find the workers to fill these openings.
There is also a related leadership issue that comes with changing the guard from one generation to the next. Johnson said we need to identify and train the next set of civic and business leaders that will shape and guide our future economy. To this end AWB is creating a new Leadership Washington program that orients participants on everything from agriculture, immigration and energy to public policy, high tech, exporting and transportation. Johnson wants his association to actively implement this successorship plan so that business is involved in key policy decisions over the next 10, 20, 30 years.
Johnson highlighted our association's annual meeting. During the event we celebrated successfully reaching the association's fundraising goal and Board Chair Randy Fenich thanked the volunteers who led the campaign. We also highlighted some of our accomplishments over the last 18 months and introduced a new STEM video featuring Memorial Hospital (password is STEM).