In our hectic, bustling world some organizations seem solidly fixed and static. We value bricks and mortar edifices like banks and chambers of commerce as vital local institutions, but may not know how active they remain in our 21st century life. Many non-profits, small businesses, legislative agendas, and citywide infrastructure projects rely on their community-building mission.
The Thurston County Chamber has a simple goal. Their programs are described as accentuating “that life and work should have meaning. We believe that everyone has the fundamental need to learn and grow and one way to do that is to connect with good work happening right here in our community. One way of connecting people with the ideas and resources is through our programs in education, workforce development, leadership and environmental sustainability.”
Washington Business Bank Vice President and Marketing Director Joanna West is Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Trustees. She joins bank President and CEO Jon Jones, recent chair of the South Sound YMCA board, and VP Sam Bovard, current president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County in such civic leadership. Since joining the board, she has gotten to see a new side of Chamber operations. “One of the first things I did on the board was help in creating the new vision and mission statements for the Chamber. The mission statement is, ‘The Thurston County Chamber is growing a prosperous economy and vibrant community by connecting people, ideas, and resources.’”
“The Chamber is doing a lot in terms of public policy,” she explains, including a joint legislative partnership. They’ve advocated for a local brewing and distilling district and addressed complicated issues surrounding the vital I-5 corridor as well as Capital Lake.
Thurston Thrives is our community’s collective impact initiative on the determinants of health for which the Chamber is the backbone organization. It is a citizen advisory group with a mission to address “key factors that impact community health and safety, including healthy behaviors, housing, social and economic factors, education, our physical and built environment, and community services.”
“One of the best things I’ve seen during my time on the Chamber board is seeing the public, private and non-profit sectors working together for the greater health of our community,” admits West. “Thurston Thrives members focus on the strategy maps of climate and clean energy, clinical care, community design, economy, education and resilience, environment, food, housing, and public safety and justice.”
More than just partners, Washington Business Bank and the Chamber share many individual leaders as well. “The bank has been a member of the Chamber for as long as I have been around,” says West. “Our CEO, Jon Jones, is a past chair of the Chamber board so understands the impact the Chamber has on the business community. We value the Chamber and its leaders. We are a local bank and believe firmly in supporting the organizations that support our community.”
Personally, West became active with the Chamber after moving to the area in 2006. “Shortly after joining the bank I started attending the Forum lunches and Business After Hours. After Jon Jones joined the bank, he encouraged me to get involved more and I joined what was then the auction committee.” West went on to co-chair events for several years. She helped to brand what is now known as A Night on the Town. She joined the Board of Trustees and then the Executive Committee and track to Chair.
David Schaffert, President and CEO of the Thurston County Chamber, is grateful for input from groups like Washington Business Bank. “There are a lot of quality organizations and organizers in our community and a lot serve as board members,” he says. “Joanna is one of those individuals.”
Interested in learning more about what the Chamber is, does, or how you can join? Their events calendar is full of mixers, group meetings, educational offerings, networking opportunities, and more. Schaffert encourages anyone to reach out. “We’re happy to have follow-up conversations as to how people can be engaged,” he says.
While the Thurston County Chamber was the first in the state of Washington in 1874, the first chamber of commerce was founded in Marseilles, France in 1599. For more than 500 years, the concept survives thanks to one simple purpose: benefitting the community. The Journal of Business Ethics explains that such cross-sector partnerships “address the social responsibilities of participating organizations, either in response to external pressures (reactively), in anticipation of potential social issues that may arise in the future (proactively), or as part of the process of interaction by adapting to emergent issues (adaptively).”
By doing all three, every day, the Thurston County Chamber—and businesses like Washington Business Bank—keep our region strong, safe, and secure for generations to come.