A Community Conversation on Economic Development in the Harpeth Area of Greater Seattle

The Bellevue Harpeth Restaurant & Wine Club has long been a popular gathering place for residents and business owners in the area. The chamber of commerce has played a key role in supporting this local business organization. In fact, the chamber was among the first to sign on as sponsors for the club. The club has brought much-needed attention to the area, bringing more business and jobs to the area.

The club not only promotes local commerce; it represents a unifying voice for all residents and businesses in the surrounding regions of Bellevue. “The Bellevue Harpeth Chamber of Commerce is a unifying force for our club, focused on the promotion of strong local commerce, innovation, and economic development which will hopefully continue to create new jobs, strengthen our communities and continue to make Bellevue and all of its surrounding areas a great place to live, do business and play,” says David Logue, Executive Director of the chamber. “We are pleased to partner with this organization to extend a warm embrace to all who call Bellevue home,” says Bryan Gaudry, General Manager of Westwood Realty.

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The goal of the chamber is to encourage “economic development through information sharing and networking opportunities.” This includes a free informational luncheon featuring Federal Trade Commission (US) commissioner, Tom Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler is expected to discuss how the FTC will intervene more actively in the telecommunications market, and provide Bellevue community businesses with tips on how to improve their sales performance. The event also includes an exhibit of wireless technology products from industry leaders and a panel discussion with Federal Trade Commission officials moderated by Mr. Bryan Gaudry, Westwood Realty’s General Manager.

Additionally, the chamber will host a free economic development seminar focusing on information technology. Regrettably, there is no public record of this event. But the website does indicate that it will offer free presentations by prominent local authorities, such as Bellevue City Manager Debra Lewis. Ms. Lewis is listed on the chamber’s communications page as one of their “influencers.”

Ms. Lewis – An Influencer and Administrator

Ms. Lewis may be an influencer, but she also has her responsibilities as an administrator of the city. If this information session is not free, then the Chamber must be concerned, because it costs money to conduct these types of events. Ms. Lewis has already made comments concerning free information programs saying, “The problem with free information is that it never gets noticed. A lot of people will pay to hear what we have to say.” That makes me wonder if she thinks all of the attendees at this event are aware of her involvement in it, or if she is just stating that as a facet of being an official entity, even though she is not really an official stakeholder.

I was not aware of any events focused on economic development occurring prior to this year. Ms. Lewis’ remarks about the chamber’s focus on economic development were met with puzzled looks and glazed expressions from many in the crowd. Perhaps it was the realization that the chamber would be hosting an event focusing on economic development and community engagement that she was speaking at. When the question was asked later, she indicated that she would like to see more emphasis on economic development throughout the region. It was a response to a question regarding the possible future economic activity.

The presentation also featured Mr. Jeffery Massey who is the Executive Director of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Managing Partner of the Massey Financial Group. Mr. Massey has previously served as the Chair of the boards of directors for Sound Transit and Washington Mutual. He has also served as a Policy Analyst for the Washington State Employment Department. He has also been active as a philanthropist and advocate for a higher minimum wage in the state of Washington.

With regard to the presentation, Ms. Lewis made it clear that the goals of the chamber are to work in partnership with the community to develop stronger and more vibrant neighborhoods through engagement. She shared that the partnership would include key community partners such as the Bellevue Improvement Association and the Bellevue Business Association. She also invited potential local residents and organizations to attend the event. There is also a community session scheduled for later in the month.

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