Yelm Business Association Holds First General Meeting

BY JENNA LOUGHLIN jloughlin@yelmonline.com
Posted 10/30/14

After a year of meeting and planning, the Yelm Business Association has elected four board members and held its first general meeting.

Around 25 individuals who own a small business in the city of …

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Yelm Business Association Holds First General Meeting

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After a year of meeting and planning, the Yelm Business Association has elected four board members and held its first general meeting.

Around 25 individuals who own a small business in the city of Yelm were in attendance Tuesday at the Triad Theater. Dan Crowe, owner of The Crowe Law Office, led the meeting and started off by giving a background as to how the group got started as well as its mission and goals.

“This organization is not Dan Crowe and the board members and the other people. The organization is you guys and it’s the new members that we can bring in,” Crowe said. “It’s the business community here in Yelm. That’s what this organization is all about. And without the input from you and without hearing from you, we can’t focus, we can’t know where we need to go to make this a better community to do business in. And that’s primarily what our focus is.”

The mission statement of the YBA reads, “To preserve, promote and enhance Yelm’s locally owned businesses by acting as an advocate to local government by improving Yelm’s aesthetic appeal and by encouraging citizen involvement in the community.”

Crowe made it clear the YBA is designed to be an action-based organization that will try to address problems and find solutions. The purpose of the YBA is to bring business people together. He also made it clear the YBA’s purpose is not the same as the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are not a chamber of commerce,” Crowe said. “We’ve talked to them and they’re excited that we’re here, they want to work with us. ... There’s no reason that the two of us can’t exist together and work together toward common goals, but in different directions.”

He also emphasized the organization was not designed to be antagonistic toward the city of Yelm, but to allow the voices of small business owners in the city to be heard.

“I think those voices are not being heard right now. I think that the city doesn’t have a reason to hear those voices because if we go we’re just one person,” Crowe said. “If we can come together as a group, they have to listen to us. But we don’t want to do it in a way that creates confrontation. ... We have the right to be heard.”



The YBA began on a suggestion from Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, who met with local Yelm community leaders about a year ago with the goal of creating a group similar to the Olympia Downtown Business Association. Crowe said the ODBA has been instrumental in helping those downtown business owners address their concerns with the city of Olympia. Romero felt Yelm could benefit from such an organization, and Crowe said many agreed with her.

In that year, those community leaders have been meeting and formulating a plan around questions like how to organize the group, what are the important issues and what role can the organization play. The consensus was that before specific items were identified, they needed to talk to other local business owners to see what their concerns are. And that was the focus of the general meeting.

Crowe opened up the meeting and asked audience members to offer their feedback about their concerns. The issues raised included coding, permitting, the historic section of town, derelict buildings, communication with the city, traffic, youth involvement, events, the size of the police force and safety, beautification, big box and chain stores, space, parking, water, signage and identity.

Specific examples of difficulties working with the city of Yelm came from representatives of two different businesses — Ice Chips and the Yelm Farmers Market. Both brought up that they tried to bring their businesses into the city, but because of coding, permitting and other difficulties each had to look elsewhere. Since moving to Nisqually Spring Farms in unincorporated Thurston County, the farmers market has thrived. Ice Chips will be moving to a larger facility in Tumwater.

“It’s emotional for us because we have 34 employees from Yelm,” said Ice Chips co-owner Charlotte Clary. “It was all coding and permitting that caused that to happen. ... We love it here, so we were willing to come into the city limits ... but coming into the city limits, it became apparent how non-business friendly Yelm is. ... It’s really sad. We wanted to be here.”

However, the one thing everyone in the room agreed on was how much they all liked Yelm and how much they wanted to see the city prosper.

“Yelm is a fantastic community. It’s a great place to do business. I love this city. It’s the best place that I’ve ever lived,” Crowe said. “All we want is what’s best for Yelm.”

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