This month’s Lewis Economic Development Council’s Member Spotlight shines on the Chehalis Industrial Commission, a group that helped form the LEDC back in the 1980s.
The Chehalis Industrial Commission was created by a group of Chehalis-based business leaders in the 1950s in an effort to attract decent-paying jobs to the area. The group sold stock at $50 per share and raised an initial $50,000. A second stock offering in 1957 raised another $50,000, giving the Commission enough to purchase 135 acres just south of Chehalis. From there the Commission continued to grow and attract businesses, but needed a marketing arm to help spread the news that Chehalis was open and ready.
That’s where the Lewis Economic Development Council entered the picture. Encouraged by the Chehalis Industrial Commision, the LEDC formed in 1983 to “encourage business and industrial growth throughout the county,” according to the book “A history of the Chehalis Industrial Commission: A Community-Owned Not-For-Profit (501c3) Group of Friends!” written by local Toledo author Julie McDonald Zander.
For the first decade, the LEDC worked with more than 80 companies to locate to Chehalis, bringing in about 2,300 jobs. The LEDC also assisted in the expansion during that first decade of more than 300 businesses. By 1969 the Chehalis Industrial Commission had attracted industries employing 557 people with an annual payroll of $4 million.
Buck Hubbert, the former owner of Tires, Inc. in Chehalis, was appointed president of the Commission in 1994, and serves as chair today.
“We originally bought land and built buildings to bring people to town with good wages,” Hubbert said. “And it hasn’t changed.”
One of the original leaders of the Chehalis Industrial Commission was Gale Shaw, who passed away in 2014. Shaw is described as a visionary and mentor by many he worked with over the years. Hubbert said Shaw was wise beyond his times, but had a simple approach.
“Gail Shaw would say, ‘Yes we can, we can do it.’ He never told anybody ‘no,’ but that we would figure it out,” Hubbert said. “He would never tell a potential client ‘no.’”
Hubbert said the LEDC was formed in part as a marketing arm for the Commission. Hubbert said the LEDC has access to county, state and federal programs that help with funding needs for local business retention and expansion. He said the LEDC is valuable in bringing in clients to Lewis County. Hubbert said he is impressed with new LEDC Executive Director Richard DeBolt.
“Richard is an asset,” Hubbert said. “The EDC is in good hands and we’re looking forward to the future. It will be a lot easier with Richard. He will help pre-screen clients.”
Hubbert said the Chehalis Industrial Commission continues to thrive. He said the Commission board is talented and engaged, with assistance by Commission President Tom Bradley and Vice President Brian Tornow.
“It’s not just me; we’ve got a good board,” Hubbert said.
Hubbert said the Commission can be “picky” with the businesses it shakes hands with.
“We don’t want a chicken farm in the middle of the port,” Hubbert said, for example. “We don’t sell our land cheaply or to people who can’t take care of it and they must provide good jobs.”
After all these years, the LEDC and the Chehalis Industrial Commission remain jointly focused on the mission at hand: good jobs and plenty of them.