Published March 2006

Coalition forms to support
free enterprise

It’s time to elect politicians at all levels of government who will back up their campaign promises of supporting the free-enterprise system and the rights of business property owners. Lip service alone won’t cut it any more with the business community.

It’s time to recruit, educate and support candidates for public office — and to support in office — who will represent the interests of the business community. Too many qualified people lack adequate support and funding necessary to seek and hold public office.

It’s time to educate voters about the free-enterprise system and why supporters of free-enterprise issues need to be elected. The public needs to understand the importance of basic free-enterprise concepts to our local, regional and state economic needs.

Those are the views of many leaders in the Snohomish County business community who formed the Private Enterprise Coalition (PEC) of Snohomish County in February to represent business interests in ways that reach beyond local chambers of commerce, Association of Washington Business, National Federation of Independent Business and other groups.

In January, more than 100 leading business figures attended a gathering of Snohomish County Councilman John Koster’s Business Roundtable group, where the concept of the PEC was introduced. Keen interest from the business community led to an official “launch” meeting for the coalition on Feb. 24 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Everett.

Many people active in the Snohomish County business community joined at the January meeting, many more at the February meeting, and others unable to attend expressed their interest in joining. After months of planning, the coalition is a reality.

“The group is nonpartisan, open to Republicans, Democrats and those with no particular affiliation. But together we will be a group that supports the principles of free enterprise. We will work to create jobs, support candidates, educate people and keep private-enterprise issues on the front stage,” said Tom Hoban, chief executive of Coast Real Estate Services in Everett.

Joining with Hoban on the coalition’s executive board are Greg Tisdel, owner of Tiz’s Doors in Everett; Tom Lane, president of Dwayne Lane’s Family of Auto Centers, an Everett-based, countywide business; Gigi Burke, vice president of Crown Distributing, Arlington; and Doug Simpson, owner of The Capitol Project, a Washington state political affairs business in Everett.

On the board of trustees are Koster, Shawn O’Donnell, Jim Langus, Larry Stickney, Josh Jensen, Phil Bannan, John Dickson, Steve and Betty Neighbors, Pat Sievers, Hank Robinette, Gordon Cole, Tony Sternola and Bob Vick.

“This is the first county chapter of a coalition of free-enterprise supporters, a concept that we expect will spread across the state. I’m a product of the free-enterprise system. I see the virtues of it,” said Hoban, who built the real estate management business he and his brother Shawn formed in 1987 into a 400-employee enterprise.

The coalition also will be examining and tracking such local issues as transportation, a four-year university, county economic growth, affordable housing and commercial air service at Paine Field. The group will train and deploy campaign workers, offer business people opportunities to have their issues and concerns heard by policy makers and political candidates and seek accountability from elected officials.

In a recent interview session that included Hoban, Linda Matson of Matson & Associates, Tisdel and Steve Neighbors of Terra Personnel Group, Hoban said, “The chambers of commerce, Economic Development Council and other groups do a fine job, but they represent such a broad range of members that it’s difficult for them to offer a consensus on many issues, whereas the coalition will be focused on specific issues involving free enterprise, job creation and property rights in the county.”

Matson said the Private Enterprise Coalition will be a group that will influence, endorse and hold politicians accountable on issues endorsed by the group.

“Many of us believe the policies and voting records of many politicians reflect a lack of understanding of free-enterprise issues. We want to change that,” she said.

Business people in Snohomish County have been talking about the lack of understanding and support of free-enterprise issues by the public and politicians for years, said Neighbors.

“We simply said it’s time to do something about it,” he said. “Too many laws are passed in Olympia that restrict and hamper businesses. If we can grow our businesses more easily, we will hire more people, and the economy will prosper, too.”

Tisdel agreed, adding that “if I can’t create jobs I can’t grow my business ... this coalition will be able to speak with one voice for the private enterprise community.”

Business people joining and participating in the Private Enterprise Coalition of Snohomish County want to support elected officials who understand the free-enterprise principles that made America the richest and most successful democracy in the world.

“This movement is about economic freedom, supporting job creation and opportunity for us all. Everyone should care about that,” Hoban said.

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© 2006 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA