Journal of Business Names Joe Jackson, West Plains Chamber Executive Director, a Rising Star

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June 30, 2016

Strengthening collaboration on the rural outskirts

Young C of C execs share goals for building identity

Kevin Blocker June 30th, 2016

Ryan Moore, president of the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce, says he sees many similarities between his current home and his hometown of Belleville, Ill.

Belleville—18 miles southeast of St. Louis—was once an isolated town with little around it. But over time, the surrounding sprawl left it feeling like it was part of St. Louis, Moore says.

“This is what’s going to happen to Deer Park,” says the 37-year-old Moore, whose full-time job is working as a financial adviser for Edward D. Jones & Co.

“Deer Park is going to be the next Liberty Lake; experiencing growth with other communities filling in around it,” Moore says. “It’s important for us to define who we are.”

Joe Jackson, executive director for the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, says he agrees with Moore’s assessment in the broader context also of other bedroom communities surrounding Spokane.

“It’s important for us to have a measured approach to the way growth and development happens in our region,” says the 32-year-old Jackson.

Moore was elected to his position by Deer Park’s nine-member Chamber of Commerce board, while Jackson’s post is a paid position.

The two have been selected for inclusion in the Journal’s Rising Stars special section this year and share similar challenges as they strive to encourage commerce in the respectively outlying areas they represent. Jackson was nominated by Steve Wulf, president of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce.

“In one year he has exceeded the expectations of both myself and the past president,” Wulf says.

Jackson and Moore join Katherine Morgan, president and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, on the list of Spokane-area executives who are in their 30s leading chambers. Morgan, 32, was among the those profiled as Rising Stars last year.

Jackson was born in Spokane, but grew up in the Tri-Cities. He returned here in 2011 after five years of service in the U.S. Army. 

A diehard EWU alum, Jackson once worked as “Swoop,” the Eagles’ mascot, during sporting events.

Wulf, the West Plains chamber president, says Jackson boosted membership and event participation by members almost immediately.

The West Plains Chamber of Commerce leases 528 square feet of office space at 510 First in Cheney. In addition to Jackson, the chamber employs a part time administrative assistant and one part time contract employee.

It has a total of 306 members that includes individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. The cities of Airway Heights, Cheney, and Medical Lake are charter members, but 43 percent of the West Plains chamber members are in Spokane and Spokane Valley, Jackson says.

“That’s been one of the biggest challenges; with a wide demographic I think it’s been tough through the years for the chamber to develop its own identity,” Jackson says.

One of the earliest duties Jackson says he undertook was to begin removing stationery and various other chamber items that carried the motto, “A little bit more than you think.”

“As a consumer, if I’m reading that, I can’t say I’d be overly excited about what that business has to offer,” Jackson says. “It just feels like we were underselling ourselves.”

A little bit more than you think has been replaced with “Better together.”

Jackson says it’s critical for Airway Heights, Cheney, Medical Lake, Spokane County, Fairchild Air Force Base and Spokane International Airport to begin working even more closely together.

“If we don’t work together, we’re going to continue to spend more time fighting against each other and miss out on potential future economic opportunities,” Jackson says.

He cites the Spokane Tribe’s recent victory as it received approval from Gov. Jay Inslee to proceed with construction of a proposed casino.

Both the Spokane Tribe and Kalispell Tribe of Indians are members of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re here to support all of our members,” Jackson says. “This shouldn’t be about pitting one member against another. A $400 million investment in our community is going to be great for all of us.”

Jackson says the chamber is also working with officials at both the airport and Fairchild to ensure that future economic growth and development doesn’t hinder their operations.

“The West Plains is an area where a lot of businesses and municipalities have been working independently for a long time, and that’s something we need to change,” he says.

Moore, who recently met Jackson for the first time, says there are many parallels between the Deer Park and West Plains chambers. Deer Park has 140 chamber members, Moore says.

Moore says the biggest project he is actively working on with board members is to clarify the chamber’s existing bylaws to more clearly state the chamber’s future goals. 

“There is growth happening here and around us,” Moore says of the Deer Park area. “And one of the biggest challenges to growth is the loss of a community’s history. We need to make sure we preserve the history that exists here.”

Read this article from Journal of Business:
Joe Jackson, Executive Director
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