In One Voice: Hood Canal Bridge closure victory

Beth Pratt

Beth Pratt

As you have no doubt seen in this newspaper and from other local news sources, the much anticipated and potentially detrimental Hood Canal Bridge work this summer has been re-scheduled into overnight closures, spread out over the summer months, instead of cutting the Peninsula off for four full, consecutive weekends.

How did we get from weekend closures through the month of May, which would have significantly handicapped our friends at the Irrigation Festival in Sequim and the Rhododendron Festival in Port Townsend, followed by a schedule for all the weekends in August, to a final decision not to close the bridge on weekends at all?

We, our community, made this happen by speaking together in One Voice.

That is what your membership, community and government organizations are here to do. Gather the input of their own constituents or members and distill that information into a cohesive message, then deliver that message to the audience that needs to hear it.

Your Chambers of Commerce are that kind of organization. One business or one entrepreneur can lobby for a policy change or code revision, but their solo voice is quiet. When businesses join together within a big-tent organization, like your Chambers, and the voice is multiplied 300 or 400 times, it is loud and impossible to ignore.

In Sequim, it has been my pleasure to use this One Voice to the best benefit of our members and our broader community. Sometimes, that voice takes shape in the form of letters of support for a grant application for a new library building. Sometimes, it is bringing comments to City Council. And sometimes it is gathering with other Chambers, councils and commissions in facing down Washington State Department of Transportation when its project impacts are not being properly perceived and addressed.

Many new business owners are unsure about whether to invest their hard-earned income in membership-driven organizations. They often perceive that their only benefit of joining our Chamber is access to events — and if they are not able to attend those events, why join at all?

I respect the careful review of benefit and cost, and how hard won those earliest profits are for a business. But my answer, when asked pointedly, “Why should I join?”remains the same. The benefits of your membership started the day you filed your business license.

The benefits of realistic codes, of healthy economics, of a point of connection for disparate businesses to rely upon, and of a robust community culture and spirit of volunteerism are just some of the benefits that come from this One Voice going to work for you before you ever sold anything to your first client. And, should you identify a change our region needs to implement, a project our government agencies are not taking on that you think is vital, being a Chamber member who can tap into the One Voice and gather support is how you get to make big changes.

Back to the WSDOT projects, though, because we are not out of the woods. As you saw in the column by Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce executive director, we have other transportation projects coming between now and 2030 that are going to have massive impacts on us all.

Medical transport, mail and package delivery, supply trucks for our local mills, and travel for workers who live in one town and commute across the North Coast to another, let alone tourists and traveling medical staff, are all going to see impacts from the coming projects. While the impacts will be felt at different times, and to varying degrees, we will all feel them.

Now is the time to join your Chamber and be a part of our One Voice. We will join with our Peninsula partners to sing in chorus, and the note you bring to the harmony is vital.

By speaking in One Voice and working together, we can create the change we need.

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Beth Pratt is the executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.