South Seattle Gem: Susan Davis

Who: Susan Davis

Known Around South Seattle As: The Executive Director of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce 

Special Trait: Connecting with people. It’s easy for me to find the spark that connects people. I grew up in Buffalo, NY and then lived in Washington, DC with lots of family in NYC.  I’ve lived in Seattle for almost three decades and am married to a native Washingtonian.  All those experiences are vastly different from each other and helps me navigate a wide range of perspectives.

Catchphrase attributed to her: The Rainier Chamber’s Economic Development priorities for SE Seattle are Education, Jobs, and Public Safety.  A college in SE would answer all three of those priorities.

You’re originally from Upstate New York but have been enamored with South Seattle since you first moved here. What’s your favorite thing about this area in comparison to where you grew up?

The thing I love most about this area is the community spirit, even beyond one’s own ethnic group.  My experience back East was more segregated or ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. In the South End there’s a greater sense of community service, local generosity and a joy about living here. It’s shocking to me that people outside of SE Seattle are confused or frightened of the south end.  We have such beauty in nature and the people here and have incredible amenities.

You’ve been the architect of several south end area events in your position, including the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade. While we’ve recently had a slew of events that helped to foster south end unity, is there one you think we’re still in need of?

We need a SE Seattle cultural and ethnic business fair of some kind. There is so much diversity in South Seattle, giving us a marvelous opportunity to increase our collective Cultural IQ. I know that some people are hesitant to attend certain events or go to certain businesses because they think they would be unwelcomed.  Those people need to stretch themselves and celebrate our diversity on a deeper level. I imagine a learning, connecting and celebration fair in one of our bigger venues.

We also need a comprehensive Promotion and Tourism plan for SE Seattle.  The South End is a collection of distinct neighborhoods, but our geography practically creates a SE Seattle peninsula because we are sandwiched between Lake Washington and I-5.

As you’re at the helm of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, give us the sales pitch you would use to convince an entrepreneur to either relocate or establish their business in South Seattle.

South Seattle is expanding and has potential to be the next regional destination, if planning is done right. It’s very well situated geographically with light trail. It’s near all the airports- Boeing, Renton and SeaTac. It’s near downtown, the east side and south county.

We have a wide range for incomes from multimillion dollar homes to Seattle Housing Authority subsidized apartments.  And, our commercial rates are currently lower than the rest of the city, making now the best time to start projects.

I’d add that new businesses would need to want to be in this area and work with leaders in the community.  Rainier Chamber has created an Economic Development Advisory which can help developers and employers.  We would want new projects to hire locally, maintain diversity and keep opportunities here. South Seattle doesn’t need an extreme makeover. But, we do need more office jobs and more workers here who are making a good salary and buying lunch or shopping here during the day.

And: we have so many amenities here: authentic cuisine from around the world, old growth forest, award winning gardens, a museum, best public pool in the city, golf, driving range, lawn bowling, indoor and outdoor tennis, soccer, rowing center, yacht club, and so much more.

Though the season of giving has recently passed, what one gift would you give to South Seattle that you think it’s most in need of?

A college or university.  Besides the natural mixing of residents/cultures and educational opportunities, it would create jobs at every level: professors, administrators, landscapers, technicians, janitors, food handlers, etc. We would also have students and staff frequenting local restaurants and shops, so it serves as an economic driver in the area.  More people traffic also provides for great public safety.

In the interim, we have started the Rainier Chamber University which offers classes for job skills and new business opportunities.  We encourage Chamber members to teach classes and train local folks to learn new skills and realize new opportunities.

The Rainier Chamber of Commerce hosts their monthly luncheon on the first Thursday of the month. Their next luncheon will take place on February 5th.Those interested in networking with local business owners are encouraged to attend. For more information on the Rainier Chamber of Commerce please visit www.rainierchamber.com