When will the pandemic end?
It’s the question we’re all asking. Aside from adhering to official guidance around social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing, though, it’s one that we’re powerless to influence.
What will the world look like once the virus is behind us? And more specifically, what will Washington’s economy look like?
We may not have the answers to these questions just yet, but, fortunately, these are questions we can and should do something about.
The AWB Institute, the nonprofit workforce and economic development arm of the Association of Washington Business, recently launched a new initiative aimed at building an economic vision for the state that will enable us to build back better than we were before.
It’s called “Washington in the Making,” and its goal is to create a foundation for lasting prosperity for all people and all communities throughout the state.
A new website, www.washingtoninthemaking.org, lays out the strategy. It features a data dashboard measuring Washington’s vital signs — 34 indicators for all 39 counties ranging from the unemployment rate and median household income to the percentage of income spent on rent and the percent of households without internet.
This continually updated look at Washington’s economic health provides a wealth of data that can be used at the state and community level to track recovery efforts, help shape policy, and move the state forward.
The indicators, developed in partnership with Eastern Washington University, are built around five main categories, or pillars, that provide a roadmap to shared prosperity across Washington. They are:
- Talent: Ensuring Washington employees are talented and prepared.
- Business Environment: Advancing policies that support competitiveness.
- Infrastructure and Connectivity: Effective infrastructure that supports a remote workforce and mobility for goods and people.
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Fueling a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.
- Place and community: Supporting job recovery and growth in urban and rural communities to ensure Washingtonians can live where they want to live.
If we succeed at the things measured within these five categories, we will enable more workers to live in smaller communities while working remotely for businesses all over the state. Right now, we are working with partners in Wenatchee including a WSU extension to pilot a remote worker project.
We will connect students — and workers who want new skills — with internships, apprenticeships, and other work experiences.
We will provide access to broadband in every corner of the state, bringing economic vitality to rural Washington.
And we will support employers, enabling them to grow Washington businesses, expand our workforce, and build new business opportunities.
The work on Washington in the Making started before the pandemic hit. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, Washington in the Making is perfectly timed to help meet the historic challenge that faces us, and to fuel the recovery we know is coming.
How do we know recovery is coming? Because Washington is a resilient, resourceful state made up of entrepreneurs and innovators. We are a maker state, and we are going to use this opportunity to make a Washington that works better — for everyone.
For more information, visit the Washington in the Making website.
Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.