The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce starts a new chapter this week as former legislator Joe Fain begins his tenure as the new president and CEO, a hire that members are calling a “huge, huge win” for the organization.
“He’s the most well-connected guy I’ve ever met in Washington,” said Kevin Wallace, president and COO of Wallace Properties and Bellevue Chamber executive committee member. “His ability to represent the chamber at every level is going to be invaluable.”
Dozens of candidates from across the nation were in competition for the job after Betty Nokes Capestany stepped away from the role last year after 17 years with the Chamber.
“None rose even close to the level of Joe Fain,” said Wallace. “This is a huge, huge win.”
Voters of Washington’s 47th legislative district made Fain available after the national midterm wave swept him out of his moderate district and opponents launched unsubstantiated assault allegations against the former Republican senator and floor leader.
“Joe has a proven track record of collaborative leadership in both government and business, and we believe he is uniquely suited to help lead the Chamber as we foster and advocate for a healthy business environment in Bellevue and the Eastside,” said Josh Marti, Bellevue Chamber Board Chair.
In the Senate, Fain earned a reputation as a bipartisan dealmaker, leading a major compromise on family and medical leave that was supported by both business and labor, as well as an historic overhaul of education funding and significant investments in transportation infrastructure.
“I’ve been impressed by Joe’s experience and abilities as a forward-thinking, bipartisan leader, and I know he will be an effective advocate for Bellevue’s business community,” said Jennifer Robertson, Bellevue City Councilmember.
Wallace noted a full list of items waiting for Fain on his first day on the job. Transportation improvements, affordable housing, planning/permitting processes, homelessness, 5G expansion and economic development continue to top the priority lists of business advocates on the eastside of King County.
“These are some of the same challenges we’ve been facing for years, but now we have the technology and the will to take the next step,” said Fain during his first day on the job.
Fain hopes to strengthen regional partnerships between neighboring cities and organizations on “both sides of the lake” to address persistent problems such as affordable housing and the talent pipeline while powering up the region’s technological opportunities. Fain pointed to the rollout of 5G wireless in Bellevue as a “huge technological advance” that will “unlock” advancements in autonomous vehicles and smart devices.
“It’s a really exciting time to be in Bellevue,” said Fain. “There’s a real transformation at hand.”