A special letter from Jason Thibeaux, Executive Director, Magnolia Chamber of Commerce
Dear Chamber members:

This year has been unusual, to say the least. Together, we’ve experienced an array of unexpected and unanticipated challenges. We’ve also learned to seize new opportunities that we could not have imagined nine months ago. It has indeed been a year that has called upon everyone to tap into their inner strengths and meet adversity with resilience and flexibility.

For the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, many of our anticipated plans and events were put on hold. Yet, new plans and new ways of doing business have been developed and implemented. Like our members, we learned to provide service through novel applications of technology and got used to a “new” normal. We keep innovating and learning every day. It was with this can-do attitude that 89 new members – 52 businesses and 37 families – joined the Chamber during 2020. A true testament to the value of our Chamber and the critical role our organization plays in the community.

We want to take this time to celebrate our work, our members, and Magnolia. It’s more important than ever to take a breath and reflect and recognize some positive momentum that has come out of the challenges of 2020.

As COVID-19 impacted our businesses and our community, the Chamber moved rapidly to provide outreach. Due to your responses to surveys, we were able to quickly articulate your needs to policy makers. Efforts were made via email, phone, and Zoom meetings to contact each member to find out what was happening and ascertain how the Chamber could best help. Armed with information, we could work side-by-side with local elected and non-elected officials to assist with finding solutions to critical needs.

We worked – and continue to work - diligently on providing the most current information related to small business grants, loans, and policy changes as they become available. Early in the pandemic response, we hosted forums and workshops with local elected officials, public safety experts, and banking officials so that members could hear directly from, and ask questions to those with expertise on grants, crime prevention, and loans.

We also launched our own Chamber YouTube channel. We used two new digital series: Chamber Chats and MagTalks to market Magnolia businesses during a time when digital resources are key strategic communication tools. We used the new YouTube programs to accompany our social media strategy aimed at posting updates and sharing marketing content that engaged our ever-growing audience.

We also doubled-downed on our digital channels and development efforts to spread the good word about Magnolia and our Love Local campaign. We aim to help educate and inspire our community to shop local. We continue our unabashed advocacy on behalf of our small, local businesses. We created infographics, curated photos, and produced videos to spread the good word that living the Love Local motto results in connecting our local businesses with customers, supporters, and neighbors. 

Within the Love Local theme, we applied for and received a competitive grant from King County in August that helps provide Chambers like ours implement strategies and access tools to keep our business districts thriving. The grant supports activities that promote quality business-oriented information about COVID-19 and government responses. It also supports communication efforts to increase marketing activities on behalf of our members. Due to these funds, we look forward to launching a new Chamber website and community calendar feature that will support Magnolia in new and exciting ways. Several other Love Local activities are funded by the grant and support improving local business climate.

One of the most impactful accomplishments was the completion of Phase I of the Reimagine Magnolia Village project. The new tables with umbrellas, chairs, refurbished benches, and decorative poles have been immensely helpful and popular in supporting commerce in the Village as businesses complied with Washington Safe Start guidance. The streetscape improvements allow customers to purchase food and beverage items and safely enjoy outside, in a beautiful setting. The hardworking Magnolia Beautification Committee and chairperson Cheryl McQuiston continue their efforts to reach out to donors and with their investments, expand the streetscape improvements throughout the entire Village.

Coinciding with the beautification efforts, many of the same volunteers worked this summer to create a new nonprofit serving all of Magnolia. Magnolia Better Together received its 501(c)3 nonprofit, tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in mid-November. Magnolia Better Together’s mission is simple: Support community development related projects and events that enhance neighborhood revitalization and improve social engagement. As we experienced in raising over $14,500 to support our annual holiday tree lighting in the Village (we think this could be a record amount!), we know first-hand that our community is highly supportive of philanthropic efforts that make Magnolia a great place to work, live and thrive. Expect to see more from Magnolia Better Together in 2021.

Your Chamber is all about supporting a great business climate. Several Chamber members, including this year’s Chamber President, Pat Craft, regularly attended meetings related to commercial and housing development in Magnolia. Specifically, the Chamber was a strong and present voice in support of the Magnolia Safeway project. We worked to ensure the project, the first mixed use project with a grocery store to qualify for the city of Seattle’s Living Building Challenge pilot program, supports both climate initiatives and needed housing to Magnolia. The Chamber was diligent in providing informed input and making sure developers took into consideration the unique aspects and varying viewpoints of the neighborhood as they worked on the development plans.

The Chamber continues to be a critical voice in the Ballard Interbay Regional Transportation Study or BIRT. Tackling an incredibly complex set of issues and balancing numerous interests, the BIRT study is helping to frame options for replacing the Magnolia Bridge. The Chamber and members of its advocacy committee continue to stay highly engaged in the process and be a voice for bridge solutions that improve mobility for people and freight, provide a system that safely accommodates all travelers to and from Magnolia, support projects that meet the needs of the community, and support timely and cost-effective implementation.

The Chamber and its business members benefitted from the business acumen and relationships of Board member, David Daugherty. With David’s leadership, the Magnolia Chamber and a team of graduate students from the University of Washington Foster School of Business completed an in-depth market analysis aimed at assisting Magnolia businesses to learn more about the unique demographics and consumer profile of our neighborhood. The resulting workshop held in late July, shared the data about consumer habits and preferences of the Magnolia neighborhood and how local businesses can market to drive customer loyalty, improve outreach to the local consumer base, and increase sales and clients.

As evident by the accomplishments of this year, the Chamber is all about its members. You have all been amazing throughout this challenging year. Many of you have joined in, volunteered and actively supported our efforts by working together to advance the community and address the challenges. We are especially grateful for all the volunteers who helped clean up our local parks and keep the Village looking fresh and inviting. The Chamber’s intrepid members never cease to delight us with their just “get it done” attitude.

We also owe a great debt of gratitude for the Chamber’s hardworking Board of Directors and their efforts over the last 12 months. I am excited to announce that 2021 Chamber activities will be conducted under the auspices of a new strategic plan developed by a seasoned team of Board members. The strategies, tactics and proposed measurable outcomes will ensure that the Chamber’s activities add to the vibrancy of our community through fostering connections between Magnolia’s businesses, residents, and community groups. Our strategic efforts in 2021will help create and sustain our community by growing the impact of the Chamber and increasing our visibility/reach in the community. Stay tuned for more about the implementation of the strategic plan.

As COVID-19 cases increase across Seattle and beyond and businesses are once again required to manage and address updated public health-driven guidance, it’s up to all of us to double-down and Love Local. Please support our Magnolia merchants and service providers during the holiday season and beyond. Call in and order takeout from our many Magnolia restaurants. Before clicking to “buy” online see if a Magnolia-based retailer has the same product in store for pick up or available online. Think about and envision the Magnolia we want to experience when this pandemic is over; a strong, resilient community filled with thriving businesses and organizations that provide a great array of products, services, and goods,

As we end the long year of 2020, let’s be thankful and celebrate what we’ve accomplished together. Here’s to 2021.

We appreciate your partnership, Jason