Teaming up for a healthy regional economy

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 05/06/2019

New business attraction and retention leaders share their insights with Chamber members


How does the Seattle metro region retain existing businesses and recruit new employers? Business Issues Forum attendees in April heard from two leaders instrumental in this work: Ashton Allison, the Seattle Metro Chamber’s director of business retention and expansion, and Brian McGowan, CEO of Greater Seattle Partners.

Both are relatively new to their positions following changes to the region’s economic development ecosystem last year. The Seattle Metro Chamber now houses King County’s Associate Development Organization, which coordinates with King County and its 39 jurisdictions to help businesses already in the King County region stay here and grow. Meanwhile, Greater Seattle Partners is a new trade and investment organization focused on attracting new employers to the entire greater Seattle region.  

 “Our purpose is to tell our story,” Brian said of the work at Greater Seattle Partners, “and to grow and protect our economy.” Other important goals Brian highlighted were the creation of quality jobs and equitable economic growth. 

Seattle is this decade’s fastest-growing big city in the U.S. With this growth, the Seattle region is struggling with homelessness, affordability, and traffic. Growth has challenges, Brian noted, but it’s better to contend with issues that rise from growth than to face issues from decline.

As Greater Seattle Partners works to attract new companies, Ashton’s program, called REACH (Retention, Expansion and Collaboration Hub) King County, works with businesses currently located in King County. This work is significant to our region’s economic health: according to United States Small Business Association, 40 to 80 percent of new jobs in a community are created through the growth of existing businesses.

Accordingly, REACH functions as the front door for King County businesses looking for guidance: it connects them with resources, acts as a matchmaker, and offers one-on-one advising. A program funded by the state, its services are free, and a business does not need to be a Chamber member to use them.   

Ashton talked about intelligent movement underway of King County businesses to create sub-regional partnerships and was encouraged that businesses are “recognizing that working together is more competitive than working alone.”