Pasco chamber will continue to advocate for business community as growth takes hold

We are in the midst of a launching point for major achievements for our region and nation. We are still adapting how we live our lives. As I pointed out in last year’s column, history points to shifts in human behavior after periods of strife. The Pasco Chamber of Commerce also adapted to capitalize on opportunities in 2021.

The Great Depression brought us major technological advances. Agriculture became much more efficient and production techniques and applications increased yields dramatically, primarily driven by the Dust Bowl and weak commodity prices.

Locally, we began the foundation of creating the great Columbia Basin with its abundance of water and rich soil. This led to irrigation with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, turning a desert into a prime agriculture-producing region. The Depression also saw the invention of sliced bread, nylon toothbrushes and car radios – which we use regularly nearly 100 years later.

The power of in person

Our chamber continued to meetups virtually for the first part of 2021. This created a new efficiency by eliminating travel time. Zoom meetings also tend to take less time than in person. But as this year progressed, it became apparent with the advancement of health science and vaccines the appetite to restore human connection had grown.

When we resumed in-person meetings this summer, it was amazing how many showed up early and lingered long after the event to visit with business peers they hadn’t “seen” in months! Meeting virtually reveals the power of in-person networking as a key tool for business development.

It was an honor to have retiring Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez give the keynote at that very first in-person luncheon in June. He was able to provide an update on city happenings but more importantly a glimpse of his personality and devotion, as he shared his experiences with the larger than normal crowd for the luncheon.

The Pasco chamber appreciated his dedication to Pasco as mayor during such a strenuous and difficult period. His leadership shined. Thank you for serving Pasco, and we wish you the best as you proceed to the next chapter in life.

Pasco is now gearing up for immense growth over the next few years. For a while the front page of the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business was dominated by economic development announcements of Osprey Pointe, Darigold, Amazon, Local Bounti, Broadmoor Development and the Colville Tribes’ plans, to name a few.

Grain raised in the Mid-Columbia is stored at a terminal near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

 

Preparing for growth

The work now begins to prepare for the thousands of new jobs in the region, where we will see needed growth in housing, retail and support services, infrastructure and education. There is great collaboration with leaders as the Port of Pasco, Pasco School District, city of Pasco, Franklin County, Franklin PUD and Columbia Basin College work to address the needs and we are prepared to take on this task. We are pleased that these businesses have reached out to the chamber and are eager to participate in the Pasco chamber.

To commemorate and promote this growth, the Pasco chamber with the help from longtime Pasco supporter Ed Ray, erected a billboard on Highway 395 north of Pasco advising drivers to “Keep Your Eye on Pasco” as we continue to grow!

Providing relief

Many local retail operations have continued to suffer immensely. The chamber assisted the city of Pasco in dispersing $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to provide relief to Pasco businesses. Thank you to the leadership of Pasco for breaking the mold and prioritizing this tool to help struggling businesses.

ARPA funds differ from the CARES funds of 2020. They don’t have to be earmarked until 2024 and the money spent until 2026. It would have been easy to overlook the urgency that existed for these struggling businesses. Our research this summer showed that Pasco was the only city that received ARPA funds in the state to immediately launch a business relief plan.

Many other municipalities are just beginning the process of collecting citizen feedback on how to spend the funds, investing it into capital needs or setting aside small amounts for future business relief.

We thank Pasco staff and council for their work to implement this project that helped many businesses in need.

The Pasco chamber continued to endure its fair share of interruption of normal routine with cancellation of events with large gatherings in 2021, yet we have adapted and explored new opportunities. For example, RiverFest pivoted away from a large community event drawing thousands of families to Columbia Park to celebrate our river system to create quality documentary, “Our Rivers, Our Life” in 2020, and we repeated this effort again in 2021.

This hour-long presentation has engaged thousands in the Portland and Spokane markets telling the story of our river system. If you haven’t watched, you can find it at riverfestwa.com. We also had to have to suspend our in-person monthly meetings for a couple months as the delta variant surged.

We reconvened in-person meetings again in November. We also will host the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame on
Jan. 19 at the Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center in Pasco. Faced with the challenges over the past two years, our chamber membership has increased and continues to grow!

The Pasco chamber will continue to advocate on behalf of our businesses and community to foster growth and adaptation for the future. Our foundation is as strong as ever, and we are eager to finally launch into normalcy.

Colin Hastings is executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

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