In an April 4th Daily World article (also in the April 6 issue of The Vidette) Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Cormier made it clear that the funding from the County for Greater Grays Harbor was coming with strings attached. Among the various required deliverables were requirements for recording details of engagements and “cold calling” a seemingly arbitrary number of entities. Commissioner Cormier explained that he wanted Greater Grays Harbor to focus on primary and secondary markets, and to stay away from tourism, which begs the question: Why is Commissioner Cormier so concerned about Greater Grays Harbor getting involved in tourism?
Greater Grays Harbor Inc., as an organization, is both the Economic Development Council and the regional Chamber of Commerce. As the EDC, Greater Grays Harbor acts as the official Associate Development Organization for the Washington State Department of Commerce and works to create economic development opportunities on Grays Harbor. They do this by working to market available commercial and industrial sites on Grays Harbor to potential businesses, as well as providing support for site selection, regulatory compliance, and workforce development.
Greater Grays Harbor also provides these services and more to its business membership to support the growth and success of local companies. The EDC function of Greater Grays Harbor is an important tool for supporting economic growth and is what is being funded by the County.
That said, Greater Grays Harbor is also the regional Chamber of Commerce and as such promotes our local business community through events and advertisements. This function is not supported by the County funds and is instead funded solely by the membership fees from local businesses. It is important to remember that membership in Greater Grays Harbor is not mandatory for local businesses, and Greater Grays Harbor must work to create value to its members. Many of these members are businesses in the tourism industry and expect Greater Grays Harbor to support and advocate for our tourism industry.
So why then is Commissioner Cormier concerned about Greater Grays Harbor getting involved in tourism? Well, Commissioner Cormier is the chairman of the Grays Harbor Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and an outspoken supporter of Grays Harbor Tourism, the contracted County Tourism Department. Recently, Greater Grays Harbor has been calling for Grays Harbor Tourism to work more collaboratively with the Ocean Shores and Westport Tourism Departments to form a regional strategy, this request coming from the businesses in those communities that Greater Grays Harbor represents.
Greater Grays Harbor also recently organized a meeting that brought together all of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committees in the region with the goal of creating a more inclusive regional strategy toward promoting Grays Harbor and cooperatively marketing our county’s tourism assets.
Both of these efforts have not been well received by Commissioner Cormier, who views them as being critical of his own efforts and not part of Greater Grays Harbor’s mission. So now, as punishment, Commissioner Cormier is using the County funding to effectively make Greater Grays Harbor write their name on the chalkboard a hundred times. If Commissioner Cormier truly believes Greater Grays Harbor is not doing its job, then he should bring his concerns to the Board of Directors, of which the County is a permanent member, along with representatives from the member businesses that contribute much more to Greater Grays Harbor’s budget than the County, even with the increase. Although, if he did, those businesses may also have some comments for him about how the County could do better as well.
Erik Larson is the Mayor of Aberdeen and also a Greater Grays Harbor Inc. board member representing local municipal governments.