By Colleen McAleer
Economic Development Corp.
March is Women’s History Month, a month that highlights the contributions women have made to our history, economy, culture and society.
I looked for greeting cards honoring the month, but none were to be found.
It’s not the first time that women’s achievements had gone unnoticed over the years.
This oversight stretches back to the founding of our country.
Women were finally given the right to vote 100 years ago, 144 years after our nation’s founding.
If you think that act changed women’s place in society, think again.
It was only 32 years ago when the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 was enacted, allowing women to contribute to our economic growth by receiving business loans.
Prior to 1988, women were required to have a “male relative” or a “gentleman” as a co-signer for a business loan. A male relative was defined as a husband or a child. A 10-year-old boy could finance a business with a bank more easily than a woman could. Thanks to this piece of legislation, women have changed the economic landscape of both rural and urban communities.
Times have changed since 1988.
Today, there are many firms and resources committed to helping women founders start up and access capital from venture capital to angel investors to local investment opportunities networks. The social and economic importance of the new economic reality brought by women entrepreneurs cannot be overestimated.
• More than 12.3 million firms are owned by women, employing over 9 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion annually in sales.
• Women-owned businesses account for 42 percent of all privately held firms.
• Women are starting 1,821 new businesses every day in the U.S.
Clallam County has its share of women-owned businesses that have added value and diversity to our economy. There are dozens of women founders, CEOs and presidents in a variety of industries.
I’d like to highlight a few: Rochelle Miller of Miller Valley Homes is a residential contractor, Judy McClanahan of McClanahan Lumber runs a specialty lumber mill, Laurel Black of Laurel Black Design, Amber Janausch of Pacific Painting, and Lindsey Diehl of Do-It-All.
In the tourism industry we have Tracie Millet and Lavonne Gomes who own Salty Girls Seafood Co. and Sunset Marine Resort, and Laura Decker who owns Pacific Inn Motel.
Retail is another industry that keeps our economy humming and makes Clallam County a unique community of makers, doers, and dreamers. Entrepreneurs like Theresa Rubens of Solar City and Forage Gifts & Northwest Treasurers, Debra Shirejian of Paisleys Boutique, Cheryl and Charlene Leppel of Leppel Flowers and Gifts, Erin Green of Anytime Fitness, Paula Loghry of Forks Dollar Store, Toni Jensen of Hurricane Ridge Veterinary Hospital, and Brandy Williams of Super Tarts, all took risks in starting businesses and have had a positive influence for Clallam County.
Some retailers have been contributing to our economy for decades like Edna Peterson of the former Necessities and Temptations gift shops, while others have come back to their hometown more recently like Hayley Coxley of Moss.
Another important aspect of these women is that many of them play important roles in the community beyond being entrepreneurs. They have proven themselves by being problem solvers and thinking creatively and resourcefully.
They believe in giving back to the community they live in. Entrepreneurs by definition are leaders.
We have been fortunate for the paradigm shift in the last 32 years. I am proud of all the locally owned businesses we have in Clallam County, regardless of gender.
But as we acknowledge the importance of Women’s History month, I would like to point out that the more women who enter into entrepreneurship, the more female mentors and investors we will have in Clallam County.
We don’t need greeting cards to remind us of the importance of women in our history. We just need to create an environment where dreamers can create, innovators can compete, and entrepreneurs can thrive.
Colleen McAleer, who is also a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, writes this column as the executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Corp. (EDC). The column will be a regular feature to update readers on the plans and accomplishments of the EDC.
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Economic Development Corp. board of directors.