The GSBA Blog


  • Redesigning WA's Tax Structure

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Sep 17, 2021
     

    The Washington State Legislature established the bi-partisan Tax Structure Work Group to identify options to make our tax code more equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent. The group is not looking to increase or decrease the total amount of tax money collected by the state, but rather examining the combination of tax types that generate the same amount of money. The group is looking at different types of taxes with the goal of improving Washington State's tax structure, and also does not involve local and federal taxes. After several years of research and outreach, the Work Group has a number of options to share with taxpayers. 

    In 2021, GSBA has held two editions of our Civic Engagement Series with the Tax Structure Work Group, both of which were recorded and can be viewed on-demand. In February, Dean Carlson (WA Dept. of Revenue) and Representative Noel Frame talked about the existing tax structure in Washington and the goal of the Tax Structure Work Group. In September, Work Group staff shared potential scenarios and the survey for small businesses to provide feedback.

    We encourage all our members to examine the potential scenarios and think about what would make the tax system more equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent. All scenarios are intended to be revenue-neutral, meaning they would not increase the total amount of tax collected by the state, but rather re-balance where that money comes from. Some scenarios involve:

    • changing the property tax limit factor
    • decrease property tax and add taxation of personal wealth
    • eliminating the Business & Occupation (B&O) tax and replacing it with some combination of a value-added tax (VAT), a margins tax, and/or an employer compensation tax
    • eliminating the B&O tax and lowering sales and property taxes by adding personal and corporate income taxes, which themselves could be either flat (one rate for everyone) or progressive (higher rates for higher incomes)
    More details on what these tax structures mean can be found in the recording of GSBA's September Civic Engagement series as well as in a series of upcoming regional town halls conducted by the Tax Structure Work Group. This series of virtual events allows any taxpayer - not just accountants or tax experts - to hear from the Work Group, ask questions, and explore the scenarios in an interactive context.

    Once you feel comfortable with the concepts involved, small business owners and entrepreneurs are invited to take a survey sharing their thoughts and ideas for these scenarios. They are looking to understand the views of taxpayers around Washington on how to improve our tax system. You can take the survey at TaxWorkGroup.org/survey.

    GSBA has often heard strong opinions about taxation from our membership - especially the B&O tax on gross receipts. This work offers a chance to reform that system, and we urge everyone to take the time to share their thoughts with the Tax Structure Work Group.


  • GSBA to carry on the legacy of Out In Front

    by Out In Front Board of Directors
    | Sep 17, 2021


    The following statement by the Out In Front Board of Directors was made on Sept. 14, 2021:

    Dear Out In Front Community,

    As we all chart our own paths out of a difficult and painful pandemic, Out in Front is changing the way it supports leadership development in the Pacific Northwest.  As of the end of this June, Out in Front ceased to function as an independent nonprofit. Out in Front is very excited to announce that it will be handing its carefully honed training materials to the GSBA to use in that organization’s work of leadership development.  The GSBA is a long-standing leader in the Puget Sound’s LGBTQ+ community and has encouraged the emergence of new leaders through its scholarship program. 

    GSBA has supported and partnered with Out in Front in various ways over the past decade. Our decision to offer the Out in Front training program to the GSBA did not come easily or lightly. After extensive reflection among board members, the board concluded that the GSBA is ideally positioned to bring Out in Front’s training mission to the largest and most diverse audiences possible.  We wholeheartedly believe that this transition is the best way to honor the legacy of Out In Front as a pioneering leader in LGBTQ+ professional development in the Pacific Northwest. 

    Mark Rosen, Acting President & CEO of GSBA, shared that “GSBA has been a longtime supporter of the work of Out in Front and applauds its Board on making the difficult decision to sunset the organization. We look forward to working with dedicated OIF leaders to help us shape the expansion of leadership training and cohort building to those in our community who are most marginalized. We believe that doing so will help further our mission of promoting both economic and educational equity.”

    Strong and effective leadership requires resolve and optimism in the face of challenge. This decision has come after almost two years of careful deliberation.  Out In Front has always sought to keep its curriculum updated and relevant to current issues.  As we wrapped up our 2019 cohort it was becoming clear that to fully address diversity, equity and inclusion in the curriculum, the organizers and the presenters would require a significant re-thinking of the program. At the same time, we were confronting issues of sustainability and volunteer commitment that are common to volunteer-run nonprofits, while simultaneously facing a changed landscape of leadership development opportunities for LGBTQ+ adults in the Puget Sound.  It became increasingly clear that the best chance for keeping Out in Front’s training materials alive and relevant would come from reaching beyond our nonprofit to an organization that had a solid foundation of resources for sustaining and expanding leadership development in our community. The GSBA is an ideal recipient of our program materials. A few members of the Out in Front leadership will engage with the GSBA to ensure a smooth transition of knowledge and experience, and we look forward to seeing an expansion of leadership development opportunities for the Puget Sound LGBTQ+ community.  

    The vibrant heart of Out In Front is – and will continue to be – its community of alumni, volunteers and donors.  The connections built during the 12 years of OIF programs and the ways our alumni have taken next steps of leadership in their own communities is inspirational.   As we transition away from an independent Out In Front program we hope that you will continue to support LGBTQIA+ Leadership Development as we embrace and benefit from the larger network of GSBA supporters and scholarship fund alumni.  Thank you for being part of the Out In Front community and we hope to see you at a future GSBA event!  

    Sincerely,

    The Board of Directors of Out In Front


  • Get to know Ensembl, a browser-based meeting platform

    by GSBA Staff
    | Sep 13, 2021

    ensemble logoThe popularity of remote work over the past year and a half has demonstrated the immense need for comprehensive, user-friendly meeting software. GSBA Member Trip Terrano and his team at Ensembl have created a platform that does just that. Ensembl is a browser-based meeting platform that utilizes automated and smart tools to keep meetings on point and on time. It removes much of the administrative minutia that bogs down facilitators by providing the tools for those looking to run meetings that are on time and productive.

    Ensembl is a unique meeting platform because it focuses on user-experience and organization, and elimates the need to keep several tabs open to keep track of agendas, links, sharing docs, files, etc., Ensembl’s technology keeps all meeting documents in one window. Even better, all files are kept together in perpetuity on a member’s Ensembl account, which allows all members of a group or meeting to access all notes at the click of a button. The platform is designed with accessibility in mind—it can be used on a phone, for virtual events, or for combination in-person and online meetings. This technology keeps everyone on the same page, no matter where they may be.

    The Ensembl team created the program with diversity, equity, and inclusion as its foundation. The two co-founders, Trip and Michael Gifford-Santos, met while serving on the board of directors of the Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, where their focus was to ensure clients of all backgrounds were honored and served by their mission and with equity. This mindset formed the foundation of Ensembl, as the two formed the platform with the intent to make it easy and accessible to all groups-from mutual aid to corporate organizations.

    COVID-19 was a difficult time for many start-ups, but the Ensembl team took advantage of the opportunity to expand their support for remote work.

    ensemble app“We originally designed our first versions of Ensembl to be used around the conference or board room table with laptops and tablets. As I had been producing meetings in this manner for decades and came to realize the amount of resources created (and number of trees destroyed by mountains of paperwork), Ensembl was a great digitized solution to that level of waste,” Trip explained. “As the pandemic took hold, we quickly realized that the traditional workplace was changing rapidly and probably forever. We shifted to include teleconferencing, video conferencing, and now mobile apps, to allow anyone, anywhere fully participate in any Ensembl. It has enhanced our vision in a remarkable way and taken us in directions we didn’t think possible at our start.”

    If you would like to try their innovative new approach to meeting management, you can visit Ensembl at Ensembl.App, where anyone can sign up for a free account and start running their own meetings. They are looking forward to sharing their platform with nonprofits serving the LGBTQ+ community first, to further their vision for the advancement and success of our collective community

  • Seattle mayoral candidates tour businesses with Capitol Hill Business Alliance

    by GSBA Staff
    | Sep 07, 2021

    As the voice of the neighborhood’s business community, the Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA) was pleased to have the opportunity to connect neighborhood business owners with both of Seattle’s candidates for mayor, Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez.  

    thumbnail_Tracy Taylor, Peter Aaron, Bruce Harrell (1)On Tuesday, August 17, CHBA Program Manager Ahi Martin-McSweeney met Bruce Harrell at Elliott Bay Book Company on 10th Avenue where Bruce spoke with Owner Peter Aaron and General Manager Tracy Taylor. From there, Bruce and Ahi set out to meet Wildrose’s Shelley Brothers and Martha Manning, swung by Tracy Taylor’s newly-established Big Little News on E Pike Street and 11th Ave, and Owner of Perfect Copy & Print Amanda Powter on 12th Avenue.  

    Each business came prepared with a variety of questions for Bruce and issues they wanted to elevate including small business funding; the future of street cafes; the ongoing labor shortage; challenges of retaining employees with competitive wages; desire for stronger social programs; and equity in access to local, state, and federal dollars. 

    Next, CHBA met with Lorena Gonzalez on Friday, September. 3. This tour began atIMG_2319 Flight Wine + Chocolate on 13th Avenue where Lorena and Ahi spoke with David Wildman and Kevin Morton before walking over to Amanda Powter at Perfect Copy & Print, and concluding at Elliott Bay Book Company where Lorena spoke with Tracy Taylor. Lorena and these business owners also covered a wide gamut of topics, including addressing the homelessness crisis, racial justice, financial recovery from the pandemic, street use, retaining employees, and funding for small businesses.  

    CHBA is thankful to both candidates and their teams for taking the time to meet with CHBA members and hear their concerns as we move closer to November’s election. We would also like to extend our gratitude to each business owner who partook in these tours and made their voices heard on these important issues. Please let us know if you would be interested in hosting a candidate or councilmember at your business for a future event. 

    As a nonpartisan organization, GSBA does not endorse candidates.

  • GSBA visits MoPop's "Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement"

    by Cade Schmidt (he/him), Marketing & Digital Communications Manager
    | Sep 03, 2021

    rise up_1As soon as visitors to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) reach the top of the second floor stairs, they're faced with large, blocky letters in bright orange proclaiming “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement.” On loan from Washington D.C.’s Newseum, this exhibit uses artifacts, texts, and multimedia to tell the story of America’s LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Movement. As visitors make their way through the exhibit, one thing becomes inextricably clear: the very nature of this exhibit, the platforming of LGBTQ+ histories at a venue like MoPop, is a milestone in itself.

    The exhibit opened during Pride Weekend on June 26 and takes guests through a chronological breakdown of important eras, political battles, and pop culture touchstones before highlighting local organizations and leaders in the Pacific Northwest’s LGBTQ+ community.

    From the Mattachine Society, to the dawn of LGBTQ+ press and the critical role GayIMG_5588 and Lesbian newspapers played in our community, Rise Up explores the many ways LGBTQ+ people found each other and built community in the first half of the 20th century. From here, the exhibit demonstrates how out of community grew activism, and how Lesbians, QTBIPOC communities, transgender, and gender-diverse people wrestled with prejudice and worked to carve our their own intentional spaces - including the founding of S.T.A.R. by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Johnson’s involvement with the Stonewall Uprising is featured prominently, though Rise Up is clear that details about who threw the first brick on June 28, 1969 remain contested. Old newspaper clippings covering the Stonewall Uprising are included in this display, as well as little-known histories of LGBTQ+ activism before 1969.

    With different segments of the exhibits, visitors can take quizzes and share their opinions on interactive screens. One quiz asks visitors their opinion on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case while another asks people to guess what year Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage.

    rise up_7Once guests take-in artifacts from the lavender scare, Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign, the 1979 March on Washington, the AIDS epidemic and ACT UP movement, the US Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on marriage equality, North Carolina’s 2016 anti-trans bathroom bill, and more, Rise Up pivots from history to contemporary activism and representation in pop culture - along with a display explaining the LGBTQ+ acronym, reclamation of the word “queer,” and other common terms. Here, local leaders like Aleksa Manila and D. Dynasty (drag persona of GSBA Board Member Dominique Stephens) are featured, having loaned costumes to MoPop. 

    The feature “Icons of Seattle” spotlights several regional LGBTQ+ leaders includingrise up_6 GSBA Members David Neth, Dr. Bish Paul, Adra Boo, Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, Marsha Botzer, and other leaders such as Speaker Laurie Jinkins, Cal Anderson, and Justice G. Helen Whitener are also included. A few feet away, MoPop highlights regional organizations and businesses continuing to work on behalf of LGBTQ+ civil rights, including GenPride, Babeland, Entre Hermanos, Gay City, Seattle Pride, UTOPIA WA, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Seattle Men's & Women’s Chorus, Bailey Boushay House, Lifelong, Gender Justice League, and more. 

    Rise Up honors the legacy of LGBTQ+ activism and gives a soap box to these histories often overlooked. But most of all, the exhibit not only educates potential allies, but fulfills the important need of reminding us how far we’ve come and to not take for granted the freedoms we have today - even while critical battles continue to be fought.

    Rise Up closes on Sunday, Sept. 12. GSBA also visited MoPop as a part of our Travel OUT series in June, interviewing and touring the museum with Sr. Communications Manager Michael Cole-Schwartz. Other exhibitions currently on display at MoPop include Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume, Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, Indie Game Revolution, and more.

     
  • Love is family at ORM Fertility

    by Courtesy ORM Fertility
    | Aug 02, 2021

    At ORM Fertility, we believe that Love is Family and everyone deserves to realize their dream of parenthood. We pride ourselves on being a truly welcoming clinic and helping all families grow. According to a family building survey conducted by Family Equality (2019), 48 percent of LGBTQ+ millenials are actively planning to grow their families to 55 percent of non-LGBTQ+ milennials -- a gap that has significantly narrowed.

    thumbnail_Dads & DaughterORM Fertility has been passionately growing families for more than 30 years and we’re proud to be a leading clinic for LGBTQ+ parents from around the world. We are committed to serving the LBGTQ+ community with sensitivity, compassion, and advocating for inclusivity, not only in our practice but in our extended medical community as well. Our team strives to provide respectful and personalized care to every patient who walks through our doors. 

    As fertility advances and the options for family building expand, so does our understanding of identities as humans. Our team of knowledgeable reproductive physicians, clinical leaders, and expert staff knows that every path to parenthood is unique, and our personalized approach to care is specially tailored to you.

    As part of our commitment to honoring our patients’ unique journey, we strive to create a safe environment where members of the LGBTQ+ can access the professional medical care they deserve. To further our commitment to our LGBTQ+ patients, we partnered with Family Equality, a national nonprofit leading advocacy for LGBTQ+ families, to earn our Open Door Training Designation as an organization.

    “The entire experience was so positive, comfortable and welcoming. I just can’t imagine not having our daughter, we are just so fortunate and grateful to ORM. We felt a lot of trust and loved every bit of the experience.” - ORM Fertility Family, Reciprocal IVF

    Your Unique Journeythumbnail_iStock-892516256 (1)
    There are many options to growing your family and the journey through fertility treatment is unique for everyone. From donor egg and surrogacy to donor sperm and in vitro fertilization (IVF), it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Our experienced team, along with our expert surrogacy and donation agency partners, have years of experience working with thousands of growing families every year. ORM Fertility also has a large, innovative, in-house genetics team and a robust in-house egg donor program. Having these services coordinated and working together at one clinic can make things easier and help streamline the family building process. With our partners, navigating the legal aspects of care are made possible and seamless. Simply put, it’s complicated and we’re here to help every step of the way.

    We are proud to be a leading fertility clinic in third party reproduction (TPR), having completed more than 10% of all TPR cycles in the US in 2019. Third party reproduction is a term that describes the group of amazing individuals like egg donors, sperm donors and surrogates who make growing a family possible for so many. 

    thumbnail_iStock-1175554132Nestled in the Heart of the Rainbow Family Explosion
    Located in both Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, not only is ORM Fertility committed to inclusivity but so are the communities we reside in. The gorgeous Pacific Northwest continues to provide a clean, welcoming, and fertile place for growing LGBTQ+ families. With supportive legal surrogacy laws to a progressive and open-minded medical environment, it’s no surprise that Washington and Oregon are some of the tops states in the US for LGBTQ+ families. There is more access and support than ever and we’re passionate about helping continue to cultivate an equitable environment for all who wish to start or grow their family.

    As Washington and Oregon are rated among some of the top states in the US for LGBTQ+ families, there is more access than ever to resources you need to grow your family. With new access to compensated surrogacy and important legal protections for LGBTQ+ parents, the Pacific Northwest is one of the best places for growing LBGTQ+ families.

    Let’s Grow Your Family, Together 
    There’s a lot to consider as you begin planning your unique path to parenthood and we06192016_ORM-Pride_MJS_076 are honored to be a trusted resource for the LGBTQ+ community. In an effort to provide education about fertility care options, ORM Fertility hosts free webinars led by our physicians and agency partners to walk you through your treatment options. You can also connect with one of our physicians by scheduling a consultation today.

    Learn more and register for our upcoming FREE LGBTQ+ Family Building Webinars:
      ●  Donor Egg & Surrogacy
      ●  Egg Seeking Sperm

    You can also visit us at loveisfamily.com, which is our dedicated online resource for LGBTQ+ family building.

    There are many options to growing your family and the journey through fertility treatment

  • Incubator: Summer 2021 Cohort

    by Levi Coffin, Business Training Specialist & Grant Manager
    | Jul 21, 2021
     

    Tiffany Kelly-Gray (she, her) has a background in finance and the vacation rental business. She currently owns and operates a vacation rental in the CD that I primarily operate on Airbnb.  She manage the listing, cleanings, remodels as needed and design. Is the current board chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Bertschi School,  actively engaging in strategic planning in order to move DEI initiatives forward. Tiffany also a Bachelors of Art from Seattle University in Digital Culture and Technology.

    Her business will be a group of vacation rentals in a rural location in western Washington, within 3 hrs drive from Seattle. The property should be no less than 5 acres. The property will allow farming, gardening, and the growth of small orchards.  The vacation properties would allow access to visitors for classes geared toward farming, seed to table, gardening as well as biodiversity. This is often referred to as agrotourism, this business would focus on teaching children about growing their own food, understanding their environment, and caring for small farm animals.  She is particularly interested in hosting Black farming classes and camps.


    Nick Albritton (he, him or they, them) brings authenticity, an open heart, and strategic leadership to his work with individuals and organizations. His professional background has traversed the non-profit sector ranging from Outdoor Education, Career Services for youth experiencing homelessness, and leadership roles within Washington States community college network. He is an engaging collaborator who has helped organizations prioritize their goals, restructure their programming, and innovate new solutions to chronic issues. Nick has a MS in Management and Leadership and is passionate about transformational, strengths-based leadership and effective change management. He is the owner of Rust and Revelry, an apparel company that designs inspiring and affirmational clothing for trans, non-binary, and queer folks. As a queer, transgender person – he knows how necessary and powerful it is to see yourself represented and celebrated in the world. He was recently published in The Born This Way Foundations collaborative book with Lady Gaga ‘Channel Kindness’. He has also facilitated Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Inclusivity Trainings, and served on the Board of Directors for Seattle Pride. In his personal time, Nick is an avid outdoorsperson who enjoys storytelling and poetry.

    Heron Consulting works with small businesses who are focused on social impact initiatives, creativity, education, art, leadership, community building, and way-making for a more inclusive, heart-centered world. Heron Consulting helps small businesses who need to: outline and finalize complex projects, create structure for/restructure processes, refine their programming, automate services or communications, and innovate new solutions. As a consultant, Nick takes the time to listen and understand the unique ecosystem of factors influencing your business. Through a collaborative process, he works closely with you to find solutions that are durable and bring value to your work in the world.


    Lesster Eduardo Munguia Nieto
    (he, him) is a photographer based in Seattle, Washington who specializes in photographing Interiors. He grew up in a small town in Honduras: one of those strange towns in the middle of the mountains, not unlike Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude. His interest in photography began with helping his mother shoot weddings at 9 years old. After studying Biology at UNAH, he moved to Seattle, Washington, to work in environmental restora8on with Earthcorps and later served as a program manager for Entre Hermanos, a Latino LGBTQ+ nonprofit. Throughout these different roles, he continued developing his craft of photography.

    Fishmoon Productions was born in January 2021 as a result of Lesster's passion for photography. This business offers production of Interior & Exterior Photography & Videography for Real Estate Agencies & Architecture firms; as well as production of commercial photography and videography for companies and nonprofit organizations.


  • Incubator: Spring 2021 Cohort

    by Levi Coffin, Business Training Specialist & Grant Manager
    | Jul 21, 2021
     

    Tara Morgan (they, she)  brings to barbering a lifelong passion for people and the revelations that can happen in our honest interactions. Tara spent 25 years in the field of fundraising and non-profits, including founding Seize The Oar Foundation (est 2013). Tara loves collaboration and small business and currently runs Vashon Flyer apparel and gifts, in addition to co-founding Steady State Media Network in 2020.

    C'Mon Barber, coming May 2021 will be a full-service barber, providing affordable haircuts, trims, shaves all in a gender-affirming space for all ages. Mobile and in-salon, zero waste and always classy.


    Ryan Riley
    (she, her) has 10 years commercial roofing experience. Started on the roof pushing a broom, moved up into project estimation, sales and management. Eventually became the general manager of a $1.5MM commercial roofing company. Began gender transition in Feb 2020 and registered the first trans owned roofing company in WA state in March 2020.

    NW Roofing Services is a high quality, value driven roofing company with equality-based ethics. Starting out with residential roof inspections, cleaning, maintenance and small repairs, moving into residential new and re-roofing projects and eventually entering and focusing on the commercial roofing sector.


    Lauren Moore (she, they) is a queer neurodivergent artist hellbent on restorative justice in Seattle. Social isolation in the chronic and mentally ill community is rampant so she created a floral pranking business that delivers flowers and custom audio tracks to folx in Seattle. In non-COVID times She curates quieter accessible events for deeper conversations to emerge. Her practice is inter-generational, intersectional, and raises reparations for Real Rent Duwamish. One of nine siblings from South Carolina, she understands that poverty excludes people from healthy pain management and often leads to a cycle of addiction. Lauren’s art harnesses color therapy, flowers and binaural audio to comfort survivors, include fellow mentally and chronically ill folx, and celebrate friendship. Her ASMR activations create safe spaces to deeply notice the body’s edges. As a survivor 3 years sober, Lauren believes art can heal our most traumatic experiences. Her relentless strength and solidarity come from deep listening, which is her favorite art.

    OK Bloomer is a flower pranking service that brightens the steps of Seattlites while celebrating friendship and intergenerational healing. Pranks are often kept anonymous and aim to surprise and delight seniors and folx experiencing chronic and mental illness, though all are welcome. Curated audio tracks and care packages are available additions to the floral surprise.


  • Understanding Your 2021 Primary Election Ballot

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 20, 2021
     
    Ballots are due in the 2021 primary election on August 3, and there is a lot to consider! Cities and counties across Washington are holding local elections and as usual voters are also being asked to weigh in on ballot measures. GSBA is active on issue politics and often takes positions on ballot measures, however we do not endorse candidates.

    King County Proposition 1
    GSBA has endorsed the Best Starts for Kids levy renewal and encourages everyone to vote YES on King County Proposition 1.

    Seattle Mayoral Candidate Interviews
    With a large field of candidates running for Mayor in Seattle this year, the GSBA Policy Council decided to do pre-primary video interviews with candidates. With questions submitted by members and the Policy Council, the candidates were able to speak to some of the most pressing issues for GSBA members in Seattle. Policy Council members Denise Diskin and Eve Hwang, along with GSBA's Matt Landers, conducted these interviews during the second week of July. Each video is around 15-20 minutes long.

    GSBA Members Running for Office
    Every year we feature statements from GSBA members running for office. While we do not endorse candidates (and we have had instances of multiple members running for the same office), we welcome the opportunity for these individuals to share their platform with fellow GSBA members. For 2021, member candidates who have submitted statements include:

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Lance Randall

    by Lance Randall
    | Jul 19, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Lance Randall, running for Seattle Mayor

    Seattle is known for its beauty, diversity and innovation around the world, which is why I chose to make the “Emerald City” my home. I believe that by working together we can create a more fair and sustainable future, but we have some challenges we must overcome first.

    Our economy needs to recover from the effects of Covid-19, we need to address homelessness in a compassionate but firm way, we must ensure everyone is protected through comprehensive public safety and we must maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure.

    We can overcome our challenges with a leader that has a vision, a plan to solve problems, can build working coalitions and produce results. I am ready to be that leader.

    For 30 years I have worked as a political scientist, economic development practitioner and entrepreneur. I have held leadership positions with a U.S. Congressman, a State Senator, Mayors, businesses, non-profit organizations, public-private partnerships, and educational institutions. My background and experience make me uniquely qualified and prepared to be Seattle’s Mayor at this exact moment in our city’s history.

    As the country and world come out of the pandemic, we will search for a city modeling effectiveness, sustainability, equity, and accountability to its citizens. Seattle can be that model city. I want to leverage Seattle’s creativity and ingenuity to model a city where everyone can live freely, create, and prosper.

    I have pulled together a platform explaining my plan to address topics including dignity for the homelessness, economic rebound, revitalizing our music scene, rebuilding our infrastructure, public safety, and climate. This platform invests in our people, our culture, and our future. I trust that after you read it you support my campaign and elect me to be the change Seattle needs, “A Transformational Leader for a Transforming City.”

    Regards,
    Lance

    www.lancerandall2021.com


  • Member-Candidate Profile: Sara Nelson

    by Sara Nelson
    | Jul 19, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Sara Nelson, running for Seattle City Council, Position 9

    I’ll cut to the chase: if you think things are going well in Seattle, I’m probably not the candidate for you. I’m Sara Nelson and I’m a progressive small business owner and I’m running because I believe Seattle has lost its way. As the only candidate in this race with experience in both the public and private sectors, I’ll bring the pragmatic and experienced leadership needed right now to meet our city’s challenges as we emerge from this pandemic. 

    I served for ten years as a Legislative Advisor for Councilmember Richard Conlin and I learned that good policy is made by paying attention to detail and reaching out as well as meaningfully incorporating input from the widest possible range of stakeholders. That’s especially true for small business owners and workers who can’t easily attend public hearings.

    I’m a GSBA member and co-owner of Fremont Brewing, a sponsor of GSBA’s Scholarship Fund. We were hit hard but we managed to retain all our employees and increased their wages to make up for lost tips. But I know many of you weren’t as fortunate.

    That’s why forging an equitable, long-term recovery is my top priority. We all know that small businesses are job creators and innovators and we make up the fabric of our communities. Hundreds of small businesses have closed and many more are on life support but City Council isn’t acting with enough urgency to help. It’s time for the missing voice of small business to City Council.

    Public safety is key to our recovery because rising crime (theft, property damage) poses significant cost burdens for small businesses and we’ve all read stories about businesses leaving town because employees don’t feel safe. Defunding the police by an arbitrary percentage won’t reduce crime nor end systemic racism in policing. We need to reform the police in a manner that keeps communities safe and holds officers accountable for all forms of misconduct -- and fund accordingly.

    My second priority is getting back to the main job of local government: adequately funding and delivering basic city services. Failing bridges, trash-filled parks, and limited library hours are the result of Council diverting General Fund dollars to ad-hoc initiatives.

    What will I do about homelessness? I’ll call for implementing a model works in other cities, based on individualized case management and a real-time, centralized database that service providers and City agencies access to ensure continuity-of-care and help individuals obtain the housing and services that meet their immediate needs.

    Voters have a clear choice this election and the stakes are high. They can vote for the same old ideological rhetoric and failed policies that have gotten us into the state we’re in now, or they can elect a candidate with pragmatic policy solutions to make Seattle a safe and livable city -- for everyone.

    I’m endorsed by the Seattle Times, Seattle Fire Fighters, Ironworkers, Plumbers and Pipefitters, and a broad range of community leaders. Learn more about my campaign for City Council Position 9 at: SaraForCityCouncil.com.


  • Member-Candidate Profile: Krystal Marx

    by Krystal Marx
    | Jul 19, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Krystal Marx, running for Burien City Council, Position 7

    While running for office is, in itself, a monumental task, doing so as a bisexual woman has been a lesson in authenticity and opportunity. LGBTQIA+ elected officials have a unique set of responsibilities on our shoulders. We are the path-makers, the way-lighters and the example-setters for the next generation of LGBTQIA+ leaders, which means we have to not only run based on the issues of the office we seek, but with the knowledge that we are leading the way for a new generation. When I am re-elected to the Burien City Council, I am excited to work on building up LGBTQIA+ youth in the Highline School District by working working the Highline School Board, local youth organizations, and City Staff. It is not enough that we run and win, as queer people, but that we make sure the next generation can as well. 

    Krystal Marx, Candidate for Burien City Council (Position 7)

    www.krystal4burien.com

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Dow Constantine

    by Dow Constantine
    | Jul 19, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Dow Constantine, running for King County Executive

    When COVID-19 arrived here – the first place in the country – I took swift, decisive action. We led with science and reason, saving thousands of lives. The New York Times reported that had America followed our lead, “the nation could have avoided more than 300,000 coronavirus deaths.”

    Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, I’m bringing that same clarity and resolve to the toughest challenges – homelessness, racial bias, public safety, climate action, and uniting our region for an economic recovery where everyone can thrive.

    In the pandemic’s wake is a new opportunity to rethink our economy, invest in our communities, and spur the kind of growth that empowers us all. I’m leading a bold economic recovery plan – investing millions into new jobs, community and small business support, and urgent action to deliver on this promise of a better future and a full, equitable recovery.

    Critical to this effort is supporting those who have long been left out. I was honored to receive GSBA’s Voice for Economic Justice award in 2016. I will tell you that my commitment to economic fairness, equity, and opportunity for all remains steadfast, and has been integral to the design and implementation of our recovery efforts.

    I recently announced and issued a Pro-Equity Contracting Executive Order with the distinct purpose of supporting minority- and women-owned businesses in King County. We are working to break down long standing barriers that have historically prevented and excluded underrepresented business owners from building and expanding their businesses.

    Beyond these efforts, we are taking bold, urgent action on the crisis of homelessness. Under my leadership, we are moving thousands of chronically homeless people off the streets this year, into housing with the services to restore lives. And, through Best Starts for Kids, we’ve kept 10,000 children and families safely housed. I led the process to create the much needed Regional Homelessness Authority, and through our collaborative approach, we are seeing the regional buy-in needed to ensure progress.

    Above all else, we must continue striving to create welcoming communities for every neighbor, especially our LGBTQ+ community. My record on this is clear: I organized to pass Referendum 74 for marriage equality; worked with legislative leaders to enshrine state protections for the LGBTQ community; achieved global milestones in the fight against HIV/AIDS; and made King County the largest county in the nation to track the number of contracts awarded to LGBTQ entrepreneurs, designating LGBTQ-owned small businesses as minority-owned businesses, and created an LGBTQ category in our small business directory.

    Across my tenure as Executive, GSBA and King County have been strong partners, working together to deliver on our shared values. As I seek re-election, it is with a commitment to continuing those efforts. The time is now to build a more inclusive, welcoming and prosperous economy, community, and future for us all – let’s get to work.

    You can learn more about my campaign or get involved at DowConstantine.com. Thank you for your support.



  • Member-Candidate Profile: Lacrecia "Lu" Hill

    by Lacrecia "Lu" Hill
    | Jul 16, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Lacrecia "Lu" Hill, running for Spokane City Council, District 3

    I am Lacrecia “Lu” Hill (she/her) I am a lightly melanated mixed race, Black and white, queer, able-bodied human living in the inland Northwest, Spokane, WA. This region is the traditional ancestral unceded territory of the Spokane and First Nations that have and continue to be stewards and protectors of the land and water. 

    I love Spokane, four generations of my family have called Spokane home. I was born into the most economically depressed zip code in the state 99207. This experience deeply shaped my belief in economic opportunity for all. I am running for Spokane City Council District 3, because the path I was able to access for opportunity is becoming more narrow and for some in our community is nonexistent. We have to have humans able to address our housing crisis, public safety, and the economy. 
     
    I have spent my career being a servant leader and ensuring others see the leader in themselves. I am committed to the growth of a regional-based economy and the significant role small businesses play. I believe that we must implement the quadruple bottom line; people, planet, policy, and profit. As we strengthen our regional economy we must ensure that folks are not left behind and more LGBTQIA2+ and BIPOC humans are guiding these policies and conversations.

    I have served Spokane through the non-profit, philanthropic, and business sectors. I worked for Boys & Girls Clubs for over 7 years,  in Vegas, Rural Oregan, and right back home to Spokane. I have raised millions of dollars and engaged families to create health and safety through programs and community initiatives. In 2014, I was recruited by Empire Health Foundation. I worked closely with Better Health Together to addressing houselessness through low barrier supportive housing and community health workers. In the last four years, I became an entrepreneur in the Cannabis industry and built out a production & extraction facility, developing top brands in the state, and annual revenue of $3 million. I know it will take public/private partnerships to address our housing, economic, and public safety realities here in Spokane. I am here for it! 

    I have spent my career Listening, Facilitating & Educating. I enjoy bringing diverse stakeholders together, reviewing data, developing budgets, listening to find solutions, and making hard decisions. I could not think of a better use of my experience, time, and skills than to serve my neighbors and extended neighbors in district 3. 

    I own a consulting business (Wake the Culture/LMH Consulting) and I am a Yoga Teacher (The Wake Yoga). I have a BA in Psychology and an MBA. I currently serve as board president of Spectrum LGBTQIA2+ Center, I also represent Spectrum on the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition. I am on the INBA (Inland Northwest Business Alliance) board, as well as the WA State LGBTQ+ Commission’s economic development committee. Most recently, I have worked with a group of humans to establish the first Black chamber of commerce in Spokane. I have the lived and professional experience that Spokane City Council needs!

    www.LuforYou.com



  • GSBA Endorses Best Starts For Kids Levy Renewal

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 12, 2021
     
    The GBSA Board of Directors has endorsed King County Proposition 1 (Best Starts for Kids), and encourages GSBA members to vote YES on the upcoming August ballot.

    Learn more about the levy and its programs.

    This is a renewal of an expiring levy passed in 2015, also endorsed by GSBA. This measure maintains and expands programs that support kids as they grow with high quality childcare, homelessness prevention, and social and emotional youth development programs. Prevention and early engagement is the most effective, and least expensive way, to ensure positive outcomes for our kids and community. We also must support children and youth of color to overcome racial injustice and have the best opportunity to thrive.

    The renewal of this levy will allow King County to maintain and expand effective programs that put children and youth on a path toward lifelong success. Investments include Prenatal-5 family support, preventing youth and family homelessness, and community-driven partnerships through Communities of Opportunity that address emotional growth, early engagement with youth, and racial and social equity priorities.

    The levy invests in out-of-school time programs for ages 5-12, transitions to adulthood for teens 14-24, and builds up to four school-based health centers across the county. It also creates a new child care subsidy to make child care more affordable for more than 3,000 low-income families and ensures that child care workers, through a Wage Project, earn a living wage for their essential work.

    The levy imposes a property tax of 19-cents per $1,000 assessed value (up from 14-cents in the expiring levy). 

    GSBA strongly supports this ballot measure because of the proven success of the previous effort, and the strong and transparent tracking provided by King County. The strong emphasis on equity in education match core values of GSBA. Additionally, GSBA has been the recipient of funding from the Communities of Opportunity program (as part of the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition) and we understand the significance and importance of these social equity programs.

    Other supporters of the levy renewal include a unanimous vote by the King County Council, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, King County Labor Council, El Centro de la Raza, API Chaya, Seattle Children's Hospital, Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, CISC, Washington Association for Infant Mental Health, West Side Baby, Treehouse, Moms Rising, and more.

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Andrew Grant Houston

    by Andrew Grant Houston
    | Jul 08, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Andrew Grant Houston, running for Seattle Mayor

    I’m Andrew Grant Houston (he/him), also known as “Ace”. I am a queer, Black and Latino architect, environmental advocate, and housing activist living on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

    I am running for Mayor of Seattle because, after years of advocating for more housing at all income levels, we’ve seen little change while worsening wildfires highlight the urgency of our homelessness, housing, and climate crises. We need action, and we need it now. 

    I am an entrepreneur with my own architecture practice, House Cosmopolitan, focused on creating places where people belong. This, along with my membership in the GSBA, are important to me as I have always had to fight to make space for myself in an industry dominated by straight, white men. So now, through my work and my advocacy, I make space for others where none was made for me.

    Over the years, we’ve watched Seattle’s historically LGBTQ+ Capitol Hill price out so many in our community. Often, that means that all of the creativity and uniqueness that we bring to the city, through our small businesses and our art, are pushed out. That’s why I will invest additional funds and resources into building more subsidized cultural spaces, including music venues and art galleries—and, of course, housing. When we build more permanently affordable housing, artists and creatives are able to afford to live in our city and contribute more of their time and energy into making Seattle a truly unique place. To be sure our small businesses can not only stay but thrive, I will implement commercial rent control. We know it works. Rent control protects small businesses from rental price gouging by scheduling reasonable and gradual increases, promotes neighborhood stability, and makes sure Seattleites can stay in Seattle.

    But we need to make sure that everyday people, customers, are taken care of, too. Prioritizing people and economic vitality are not at odds. I will pay people a living wage, build affordable housing across every area of the city, and make it easier for people to reach what they want and need through transportation improvements, so everybody wins.

    At the end of the day, we need transformative change. As a project manager with experience leading multimillion-dollar jobs, I have the knowledge necessary to get things done. My vision of Seattle makes it one of the most vibrant, sustainable cities in the world; a city where no one has to sleep outside, where local businesses and culture thrive, and where orcas start to visit once again. In order to do that, we must center our most marginalized first and, with my experience and background in mind, we will do just that.  No more empty promises.

    Seattle, I will act. And I would be honored to have your support in this race for Mayor of Seattle.

    Andrew Grant Houston (“Ace”)



  • SCOTUS Rejects Arlene's Flowers Appeal

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 07, 2021
     
    On July 2, the Supreme Court of the United States denied review of the Arlene's Flowers case involving a same-sex couple turned away from a flower shop because they are part of the LGBTQ+ community. This decision lets stand the Washington State Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that there is no license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

    Read more from ACLU, who represented Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in their suit.

    GSBA joined amicus briefs with several of our member businesses and business associations both for the original case in 2015 and then again in 2019.

    A big thanks to our members and partners who helped organize these briefs and who signed on to oppose discrimination, including:

    Attorneys: Davis Wright Tremaine, Perkin Coie, and ACLU of Washington

    Associations: Broadway Business Improvement Area, Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, Inland Northwest Business Alliance, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Tabor 100

    Businesses: Adrift Hotel, Amazon, Brooks Sports, Inc., Chachalounge LLC, Elliott Bay Book Company, Expedia Group, Group Health Cooperative, JOWW LLC (dba Percy's Co), Kaiser Permanente Washington, Microsoft, Modern Housing LLC (dba Ace Hotel Seattle), Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream LLC, Northwest Polite Society LLC, Pike Pine Diner LLC, RealNetworks, Inc., Recreational Equipment Inc, Salesforce, Shafty's LLC (dba Grims), Sugar Pill Inc, Wide Open Inc, Zillow Group, 98point6 Inc.


  • Member-Candidate Profile: Ryan Calkins

    by Ryan Calkins
    | Jul 07, 2021
     
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Ryan Calkins, running for Seattle Port Commission

    In my first term on the Seattle Port Commission, I’m proud to have led with the priorities and values that align and expand the Port’s mission as one of our region’s key economic development drivers. Through inclusion, opportunity, and bold innovation, we’ve created jobs, supported local businesses and workers, as well as made significant strides in the battle against climate change.

    The Port of Seattle has a huge impact on Seattle's economy, including nearly $1 billion dollars in annual revenue, a vibrant airport, healthy seaport, and booming tourism industry. With this economic influence, the Port has the power to support communities and essential workers most impacted by the pandemic and be a key driver of small business development in the Greater Seattle area. We need leaders committed to those goals.

    Through ongoing large-scale construction projects, hundreds of retail opportunities, and resources to support the training of the next generation of business leaders, the Port of Seattle can and must work to ensure that the Seattle community is employed and moving forward coming out of the pandemic.

    Additionally, I’m working so many of these new and high-paying jobs – in maritime, aviation, clean energy, and more – are available and marketed toward those who have been left out in the past, especially communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and low-income communities. To meet those goals, I have worked tirelessly to launch and promote our region’s new Maritime High School, connecting students to new opportunities in Port-aligned industries.

    As someone who works directly with small businesses now, I understand the challenges facing new entrepreneurs and difficulty in securing work with large government agencies. That is why I’ll continue to work to expand the Port’s efforts to make sure contracts are awarded to local small businesses, not just large, out-of-state conglomerates.

    Beyond just economic development, the Port of Seattle is also in a unique position to help tackle climate change. Since I was elected, I have acted on the belief that Ports can do more to improve sustainability, serving on the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Committee and leading efforts to make the Port of Seattle the nation’s most environmentally sustainable port.

    Our investment in sustainable aviation fuels at SEA and for complete decarbonization of the Seattle central waterfront are truly innovative. We have also become leading advocates for important ideas like the statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard. We must continue this nation-leading work.

    As the Greater Seattle area continues to grow, the importance and relevance of our Port will continue to expand. During this coming election cycle, we have the opportunity to elect leaders with the integrity and experience to hold the Ports true to the interests of Seattle citizens. I hope to earn your vote.

     

    Ryan Calkins is a Seattle Port Commissioner, GSBA member, and consultant and coach at Ventures, a charitable organization that supports low-income entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in the Puget Sound area. Learn more at www.ryanforport.com.


  • Community reactions to Fulton v. City of Philadelphia decision

    by Matt Landers (he/him), Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs
    | Jun 17, 2021

    This morning the Supreme Court of the United State unanimously decided in favor of Catholic Social Services in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case.

    While this decision is a disappointment, interpretations from LGBTQ+ legal experts are relieved that it appears to be a relatively narrow ruling that is hopefully limited to some of the specific circumstances of this one case, rather than a blanket ruling in favor of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

    The case originated when Catholic Social Services sued Philadelphia for refusing to give an exemption that would allow it to deny same-sex couples applying to be foster and adoptive parents. Philadelphia argued that an agency contracting for public services must comply with the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The Supreme Court’s ruling was decided based on the finding that Philadelphia’s contract did authorize an exemption and also the that the City had granted exemptions to other providers in the past.

    Regardless of the interpretation of this ruling, it reinforces the urgency of passing the federal Equality Act to ensure that strong anti-discrimination protections are available for LGBTQ+ people across the United States. You can learn more about the Equality Act in this community event organized by QLaw Association, QLaw Foundation, the Washington State LGBTQ Commission, and GSBA.

    Some of the reactions to today’s ruling from LGBTQ+ legal experts include:

    Lambda Legal
    “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is troubling but, importantly, it refused to give a free pass to people or agencies that want to discriminate against LGBTQ people for religious reasons and is limited to the specifics of Philadelphia’s foster care system. Instead, the Court validated the City’s ‘weighty’ interest in the equal treatment of LGBTQ prospective foster parents and foster children. The only reason those interests did not carry the day was due to the specifics of the City’s contract. Because the Court decided the case on contract-specific grounds, the City can address the situation by rewriting its contracts.”

    “Any rationales that allow contract agencies to discriminate harm all children in care who need family foster homes if they cannot safely return to their parent or parents. LGBTQ foster children, the data shows, constitute almost one-third of all children in the foster care system and are over-represented in group homes and facilities because of a lack of foster homes. These children have a critical need for a foster care licensing system that welcomes everyone. Today’s ruling is concerning because it may give governments pause or cause confusion regarding nondiscrimination requirements in contracts.” 

    National Center for Lesbian Rights
    “Properly understood, today’s decision is a significant victory for LGBTQ people,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “The Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services, but on the narrowest possible ground, based on language in the City of Philadelphia’s contract that authorized individualized exemptions for any provider. The Court did not change the current constitutional framework, which permits governments to enforce antidiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people even when doing so may have a disparate burden on those who hold certain religious beliefs. As a result of today’s decision, those who feared the Court might create a sweeping new religious exemption to such laws can breathe a sigh of relief.”

    “This narrow ruling allows governments to continue to prohibit discrimination not only against LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents but also against LGBTQ parents who are often wrongfully separated from their children by discriminatory child welfare practices that unfairly target parents who are poor, LGBTQ, disabled, or people of color,” said Cathy Sakimura, NCLR Deputy Director and Family Law Director. “Today’s decision preserves the critical ability of governments to prohibit such rampant discrimination, which is an urgent need.”

    Transgender Law Center
    #SCOTUS decided in favor of Catholic Social Services because Philadelphia allowed for exceptions to non-discrimination provisions in the City’s contracts, not because the Court believes that the City does not have the right to enforce their non-discrimination laws. This is a win.

    We know that the foster care system has never been safe for many of us, especially Black people, people of color & TGNC people. We must ground this decision and impacts in the racist history of the child welfare system that has long been used as a tool to enforce White Supremacy.

    We will continue to fight back against any harms committed by the state and organizations using public money to discriminate. But we know that the State will not save us. As we fight constant attacks from the religious right, we know that true power exists within our community.

    Centerlink
    “This case is an important reminder of the countless ways that LGBTQ Americans, people of color, women, people of minority faiths and others still face discrimination across our country,” said CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak.  “That’s why CenterLink is calling on Congress to pass federal nondiscrimination protections such as the ones outlined in the Equality Act. Because no one should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are."

  • Senator Maria Cantwell Talks Economic Recovery With GSBA Members

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jun 07, 2021

     
    You can watch the recorded video of this roundtable here.


    On Thursday, June 3 ten GSBA small business members participated in a roundtable discussion with Senator Maria Cantwell, moderated by GSBA Board Member Linda Di Lello Morton of Terra Plata. Representing Washington State since 2000, Senator Cantwell is currently the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and she also serves on the committees for Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Energy, Finance, and Indian Affairs. This means that the input of Washington small business is particularly important to her position.


    Senator Cantwell started off the meeting reiterating her focus over the last year - getting dollars out the door to help small businesses weather and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. She touted two of the most important federal programs this spring - the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund - that dealt with two of the sectors most severely impacted by the pandemic. She mentioned that she hopes to get Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg out to Washington in the near future to talk about infrastructure, which is critical to our fast-growing region. Senator Cantwell acknowledged that one of the critical bills that the Senate had not yet passed was the federal Equality Act, and she expressed hope that it would soon follow in the footsteps of the legislation on anti-Asian hate crimes that was passed last month.


    When the discussion was turned over to the panelists, Eli Allison of Repair Revolution kicked off the group sharing how their business brings rare diversity to the automotive sector, and how any recovery must include underrepresented groups like women, LGBTQ+ people, and BIPOC individuals. Eli stressed how we cannot have infrastructure without a representative workforce in the trades, and shared how there is a severe shortage of qualified workers in many trade sectors. 


    Sean Brownlee of Mount Vernon-based rope manufacturer Ravenox elaborated on the similar issues for manufacturers, compounded by rising costs and inflation. Over the last year, his raw materials have had a 25% increase in cost, a 40% increase in shipping costs, and faced significant delays in shipping due to a shortage of shipping pallets and containers. He had founded his company with the goal of bringing manufacturing back to America, but the turmoil in the global economy is threatening his business. Dani Cone of Cone & Steiner reiterated the challenges with supply chain logistics at the moment and how she has seen the impact on her small vendors.


    Both Nicole Johnson of Sound Therapeutic Acupuncture and Jordie Neth of Rain City CPAs warned about the crushing effect of educational debt on small business owners. Nicole talked about how high interest loans prevent her from reinvesting back into her practice and hiring new employees, while Jordie shared how high debt scares away those who might otherwise be interested in careers that require professional degrees like CPAs, attorneys, and auto technicians. Senator Cantwell shared how she was working with Senator Elizabeth Warren to cancel federal student debt, cracking down on predatory for-profit financing, and how understanding the impacts on small businesses was critical in how the federal government should address the problem.


    Reflecting a common concern that GSBA has heard across our membership, Danielle Hulton of Ada’s Technical Books and Fuel Coffee in Seattle shared how her employees have been able to take advantage of Washington State’s great paid family leave program, but that they end up not returning to work because of the inability to find affordable childcare. Senator Cantwell said that this is one of the many examples of how the pandemic exposed a number of pre-existing crises across our society, and that the federal government needed to do more to keep parents in the workforce and have opportunities, whether through tax incentives or ways to drive down the costs of childcare.


    Omari Salisbury of Converge Media shared his experiences as a Black-owned small media business, saying the adage “when America sneezes, the Black community catches a cold.” The pandemic laid bare a lot of huge disparities that already existed, particularly in healthcare and business outcomes. When trying to stay afloat during 2020, Converge Media like many small businesses, applied for grants and loan programs, but was denied or found the application process was too onerous for a struggling entrepreneur. Luckily, he did receive a GSBA Ready for Business grant this spring. Senator Cantwell responded saying that COVID also showed us how we need to have a diversity of representative local media voices like Converge who can provide trusted and accurate information. She expressed an interest in expanding the pandemic programs to support diverse media and to build what Omari referred to as a level playing field for all small businesses.


    With his perspective as a certified public accountant, Jordie Neth also shared concerns about staffing levels at the IRS not keeping pace with the increasing complexity of the federal tax code. Numerous tax credits, loan forgiveness, employee retention credits, and other incentives are important, but difficulties arise when there is no one to answer the phones and take questions on how to correctly implement them.


    Ashley Martinez of Ashley’s Pub in Bremerton ended the discussion on a positive note. While she was wary of PPP loans at the start of the pandemic, she ended up receiving support from the City of Bremerton as well as GSBA’s Ready for Business fund, and then from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. She particularly wanted to acknowledge the importance of the ability for women, minority, and veteran owned businesses to apply first to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. With these grants, her business is looking optimistically to the summer as Washington State continues its reopening plan.