|By Renee Sunde, President/CEOThis week was the start of a four-day road trip across parts of Eastern Washington. My goal for this outreach has been pretty simple: to connect with our local retail partners in communities around the state.The trip has offered a wonderful opportunity to re-introduce the association to a wide array of retail supporters and to discuss creative ways we might work together to strengthen and respond to the challenges and opportunities facing the industry throughout the more rural parts of the state.As retail undergoes massive transformation, retailers are challenged to be more creative and agile than ever before. Approximately 98 percent of retailers represent small businesses that employ under 50 people. Coming together as state and local partners offers one of the most effective approaches to political advocacy in support of retail’s evolution.Monday was off to a good start with a stop in Ellensburg to visit Laura Bobovski, Director of Economic Advancement for the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce and Carolyn Honeycutt, Economic Development manager with the Ellensburg Business Development Authority. The City along with many Community and ED advocates have done an amazing job through their Main Street initiatives, revitalizing and restoring the historic flavor of beautiful Ellensburg.My trip would not have been complete without a visit with WRA Board Member Brad Fitterer, Owner of Fitterer’s Furniture – a downtown icon and economic staple – adding to Ellensburg’s vibrant local retail mix.
My next stop was the beautiful community of Wenatchee that included a visit with Wenatchee Valley Chamber Executive Director, Shiloh Schauer. I learned more about Wenatchee’s regional plan – Our Valley Our Future. OVOF as the locals refer to it – is an incredible body of work that includes a focused strategy for growing and expanding the retail sector in the Wenatchee Valley. A visit with the City’s ED Director, Steve King; Allison Williams, Executive Services Director; and Downtown Association Director, Linda Haglund, offered great dialogue on how WRA can best support their already robust efforts.
The remainder of the week includes visits with partners in Moses Lake, Tri-Cities and Spokane. Thanks to each one of our statewide partners who have invested their time to connect. It has been so inspiring to hear the energy, excitement and passion they have for the communities they serve. The opportunities for Washington’s retailers are vast and the future for retail around the state is bright.