A vibrant business community, supported by public policies, is the key to a healthy community.

Do you believe this statement?

Whatcom Business Alliance members – industry leaders based in Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Blaine and other cities in our county – certainly believe this to be true.

They have seen firsthand how the success of businesses in Whatcom County – from mom-and-pop shops to major corporations and all organizations in between – can result in countless benefits that cascade throughout our communities.

Those benefits include:

  • the economic mobility of the population, which helps individuals and families improve their economic status;
  • financial support for local nonprofit organizations that serve a variety of demographics;
  • a healthy tax base that supports improvements to transportation, the arts, emergency services and recreation;
  • the reinvestment of capital and resources into the local economy; and
  • competitive wages and a healthy job market that includes diverse career options.

Companies that operate in Whatcom County also provide products and services that consumers need. They produce nearly everything that is necessary for individuals to survive and even thrive in the community they choose to live in.

Sustained growth

Community prosperity and opportunities for growth bring job seekers and businesses to Whatcom County. This could help explain why the Bellingham area ranks No. 3 in the nation on Forbes’ list of Best Small Places for Business and Careers.

Among the reasons for the region’s high ranking on that “best of” list is that the Bellingham area is 23rd in the nation in terms of job growth, which Forbes uses as one of its primary criteria. Job creation is one metric used to evaluate the character of the business environment in a geographical area; sustained employment growth plays a large role in the creation and continuity of a healthy community.

Because of a healthy business community, Whatcom County has sustained growth. Protecting and advancing a healthy business climate is why Whatcom Business Alliance continuously advocates on behalf of industries that have proven to positively impact our community.

Positioning Whatcom County for the future

Like most of the country, Whatcom County worked its way through a recession in recent years. Efforts to recover from that recession and to position the Bellingham area for future prosperity have been showing success so far.

Figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a growth in Whatcom County jobs of nearly 17 percent from 2014 to 2019 – among the top marks in the entire country.

As of October 2019, the labor force was estimated at 117,985, up from an average of 110,074 in 2017, according to figures from the state Employment Security Department. The number of employed people increased by 3,793 for the year, according to those estimates.

Regulations lead to business closures in Whatcom County

At the same time, businesses are facing increased local and statewide regulations, leading to some closures in 2019.

Restaurants and other small businesses are closing their doors because they cannot raise their prices enough to keep up with increasing expenses and governmental regulations.

Another example of policy negatively impacting the overall health of our community: An emergency grant was needed to temporarily save a daycare business that provided 532 licensed child care slots in several Whatcom County communities. That business provided a critical service for working families, but Washington state’s mandatory minimum wage increase reportedly would have added $628,000 to payroll expenses for the 2020 fiscal year.

That is a real example of how voter-approved regulations add extra expenses that literally can bankrupt businesses that fill critical needs. When businesses are not supported, negative effects flood our community.

Circling back to the question asked at the beginning of this article: Do you believe that a vibrant business community, supported by public policies, is the key to a healthy community?

Would you like to help local businesses advocate for policy that supports a vibrant business climate and a healthy community? Consider becoming a member of WBA, sign up to receive eNews editions that highlight important topics, or connect with WBA on Facebook or LinkedIn.