Merchants use networking to fight downturn

It may be considered one of the most overused and despised catchphrases for some people in recent months, but “economic downturn” has only served to spur creativity among Sumner businesses.

It may be considered one of the most overused and despised catchphrases for some people in recent months, but “economic downturn” has only served to spur creativity among Sumner businesses.

“What we’ve noticed since September is that business owners are getting very creative,” said Sally Zeiger Hanson, Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce executive director. “They’ve been very responsive to the economic downturn and going back to the basics.”

Businesses are intensifying their emphasis on customer service, face-to-face contact with colleagues and clients and keeping on the lookout for networking opportunities, she said.

One factor that seems to be helping businesses flourish in tough times are the weekly Friday morning networking meetings that take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Sumner.

The coffee and doughnut hours, which are open to anyone, have already proven successful, she said. One such success story that came from its April meeting involved the owners of the Laurel Creek Manor in Sumner, whose meeting facilities were used by staff members of General Electric. When its chief executive officer needed a place to stay while in town, Laurel Creek Manor was able to point to the Holiday Inn just a few miles away.

“I think one of the reasons they would be here is because those companies aren’t going to big, splashy retreats,” she said. “Instead they’re picking wonderful gems like Sumner.”

The chamber is also noticing a new trend among businesses – the “all boats rise” theory, she said.

“I think they see themselves partnering with their biggest competitors,” she said.

If you have two companies working in the same industry, they have the same contact base and they can leverage together and share expertise and resources.”

However untraditional those efforts may appear, Zeiger-Hanson said they seem to be working and she’s encouraged by feedback from the organization’s 600 members, 60 of them from Sumner.

“In the last six weeks, I’ve sensed an upturn,” she said.

Reach Judy Halone at jhalone@courierherald.com or 360-802-8210.

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