Published: January 31, 2023 | Updated: February 14, 2023

NIA Women of Impact in their words: IMPACTED series lands on 'C' for commerce

Marilee Wallace

Marilee Wallace

Let’s talk “commerce.” Not too sexy of a word is it? How about, let’s talk about “money.” Better, isn’t it? Money. How we make it, spend it, save it, have it work for us, push it around the community, push it around the globe — is all part of commerce. Basically commerce is the overall movement of goods services and money — BIG money. Commerce is the mechanics of all this and it moves the world!

Let’s dig a little deeper: Merriam Webster says, as Noun, Commerce is:

1) The exchange or buying and selling of goods, commodities, property, or services especially on a large scale and involving transportation from place to place.

2) Social intercourse: Interchange of ideas, opinions, or sentiments.

3) The act of engaging in sexual intercourse.

We giggled a bit at No. 3, but Merriam continues; “Commerce is the conduct of trade among economic agents. Generally, commerce refers to the exchange of goods, services, or something of value, between businesses or entities. From a broad perspective, nations are concerned with managing commerce in a way that enhances the well-being of citizens, by providing jobs and producing beneficial goods and services.”

NIA’s Women of Impact Leadership Roundtable met in January to discuss Commerce. More specifically, what is commerce (global, local and social definition), how it plays out in our communities and who are some of the women in our community influencing commerce. What we discovered is that the answers were a bit unsettling and this topic became one of the most engaged conversations to date at our monthly Roundtable series.

So what’s happening in Kootenai County to engage commerce? (Not No. 3 we are assured, but on a history note: check out the Oasis Bordello Museum in Wallace.)

A Chamber of Commerce: A nonprofit organization found in most cities which is membership driven. Businesses join chambers for an annual fee to access the many benefits, tools and programs that the membership offers. C of C’s were established as early as 1599 France and most recently 1912 in the United Sates with one common thread, to support and promote commerce within their communities. We have several C of C’s in North Idaho including Coeur d'Alene, Hayden, Post Falls, Sandpoint and Wallace. Having been an insider of the C of C world as a vice president for more than two decades, I am often asked if chambers are still relevant and should they be joined. My answer is always this: Consider chamber membership as part of your annual business plan and evaluate it like any other item in your strategic plan. Properly used, it may impact your bottom line in your successes or failures. To do this, you need to use your membership to make it effective. In laymen’s terms, if you invest in a gym membership and you go to the gym on a regular basis, you’re going to get results. If you buy that annual gym membership and don’t go — well, you guessed it. Why bother? Same with a chamber membership. Our speaker at our January Women of Impact series, Christina Petit, president and CEO from the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce pitched to our ladies very compelling reasons to go to the “chamber Gym” and “work out” our businesses. (Christina is finishing her U.S. Chamber I.O.M certification and had amazing insights to share with us about her chamber and where it’s going!)

View of Local Workforce: Vicki Isakson, director of North Idaho College Workforce Development, gave us the brief rundown on the local and national workforce situation. It wasn’t all unicorns and roses. We learned that although better than one year ago, we still see a demographic where no one wants to work, or at the very least, they want to work, but get paid more money than our local employers are able to pay. To make matters more difficult, employers often cannot find qualified employees and the ones that are, often do not stay, jump for better pay, want to work from home or they simply want a change of scenery. Longevity and loyalty to an employer is a thing of the past.

We were reminded baby boomers are retiring in droves, students are not entering trades and collage enrollment is down. We also learned global birth rates are at a 30-year low. This all adds up to us wondering if we will even have a workforce moving forward. On a good note however, we are seeing increased salaries from last year which is moving the needle forward in filling jobs and that Idaho’s current unemployment rate is at 3% compared to 3.5% in the entire United States.

Coeur d’Alene Economic Development Corporation (CDAEDC) to the rescue! The Coeur d’Alene Area EDC (CdAEDC) is the economic development organization for Kootenai County, representing all the rural communities in the region and the four larger communities: Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden and Rathdrum. Their mission is to build a healthy economy for the region by strengthening the base, diversifying the economy, supporting the creation of new jobs, and advancing workforce development in cooperation with local, regional and state economic partners, and existing businesses and industries to facilitate business retention, expansion and attraction. Established in 1987 as Jobs Plus, the CDAEDC has recruited more than 125 companies to North Idaho — $722 million total capital investment in Kootenai County and $144 million in total annual payroll. Jobs that stay right here! Headed up by their President Gynni Gilliam, she and her team take care of our existing businesses, analyze growing entrepreneurial activities, and recruits new businesses to help diversify and strengthen our economy. Gynni presented to our ladies the history, the future goals and overall potential North Idaho has in continuing to bring industries and talent to our growing region.

North Idaho Builders Association (NIBCA): Founded in 1970, is an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the building industry for the benefit of its members and the citizens of North Idaho. The NIBCA strives to continue its role as an industry leader in governmental issues and community service. They, like Chambers of Commerce, are membership driven and attract members specifically involved in the building industry. They are important, especially now and we see the growing pains of our community. NIBCA strengthens the residential construction sector of the economy by advocating for greater housing affordability, flexibility, overall economic development, job creation and a growing economy. It is a trusted source for builders to unite in strengthening not only their individual businesses but also the builder market in Kootenai County. Emily Bradly, NIBCA’s executive director, shared their mission and vision with our group on commerce and we are glad she did!

Commerce and our Women of Impact: What I LOVED about all of our January speakers mentioned in this article is they represent a current trend. More women than ever are in executive positions and shaping commerce. Kootenai County has leading ladies like Vicky, Christina, Gynni and Emily holding the torch for strong economies in North Idaho and I, for one, am excited for this (after all we are NIA, Women of Impact).

NIA Women of Impact is also putting the final touches on the “Women with Cool Jobs” event scheduled for April which will highlight women from our own backyard that when most people meet them, they say “You do THAT? That’s cool!” And save the date, May 24, 2023, for the annual Onward & Upward Women’s Conference at the Best Western Plus Coeur d'Alene Inn. Follow us on Facebook or visit our website for a lineup of our monthly topics and to get details on additional programs NIA is offering to Impact women in our region. See you next month!

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Marilee Wallace, IOM, president/CEO of the North Idaho Alliance Women of Impact.


Women of Impact Leadership Roundtable on Facebook.