Written by 2020 Board President TJ Sullivan. Originally published in the 2020 Spring Issue of 503 Magazine.

Who we elect affects the livability of our city, state and region. The more local the election the more it affects our quality of life. While national news may garner a lot of our attention, we need to have a laser-like focus on what is happening in the Willamette Valley to ensure our community is the best it can be. Our elected officials must tackle questions like: Are we safe? How easily can goods, services, and people move throughout our area? Is it affordable to live here? How well are our schools performing? How do we take care of people who are struggling? Are we prepared for growth? Are we prepared for catastrophes? Many of these questions are best answered by the answer to one question: How strong is our economy?

Our economy is like an ecosystem – there are different layers of community that interact and have an impact on one another. In an ecosystem there is a critical layer called Producers. When conditions are optimal, Producers thrive and everything else in the ecosystem thrives. In an economy, business is the Producer. When economic conditions are optimal and business thrives, everything else in the “food chain” is taken care of. There is money for schools and teachers, government workers, infrastructure, non-profits, etc. Most importantly, households have economic security (this means a household has stable income to support a standard of living now and into the future). Studies have shown that when households have economic security, they are less likely to have: alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, spouse abuse, etc. and more likely to have higher literacy rates, higher graduation rates, better health, etc. The more households in our area that can experience economic security, the less problems we will have to face collectively. The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization in working on the economic security of our area. We don’t care about the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your religion, your political affiliation, which college football team you root for –
all we want is for you to thrive.

So if business thriving leads to people thriving and who we elect has an impact on business thriving, then it makes sense that the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce would want to see people elected who will create optimal conditions in our economic ecosystem. This is where the Create Jobs Coalition and Build Jobs Political Action Committee (PAC) in concert with our Public Policy meetings and Board of Directors come into play.

If you work for a business that is a member of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, then you can participate in our public policy meetings where we investigate the issues and candidates for office. We often vote in these meetings (one vote per entity) on recommendations to the Board of Directors – who then also take a position. The PACs then can be directed to execute the will of the Board to support or oppose a candidate or measure.

Every business should be participating in two ways– first, with your time, and second, with your pocketbook. Whether it is election season or not, the conditions you operate in are directly impacted by how many participate. We can all point to poor decisions that have been made recently at the local and state level that are making it harder for business to survive, let alone thrive. We have to start building a healthy economic ecosystem locally and you need to be involved. Check out the Chamber’s website for information on our Public Policy meetings and attend. Make sure you are a regular donor to the Create Jobs Coalition – $25.00 a month is doable and makes a difference. Let’s create an economy where needs are met because of rising household income, and not by figuring out a new tax on business. Let’s get our economic ecosystem as clean as possible.

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