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WSBLN named USBLN Affiliate of the Month, June 2013

Year that you were established:
The Washington State Business Leadership Network (WSBLN) began with a small group of employers, in February 1999, who were concerned that more than 70% of working-age people with disabilities were unemployed. In 2003, the WSBLN established itself as a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. This model purports a primary business principle “success breeds success.” When an employer talks about the benefits of hiring candidates with disabilities, other employers are eager to do the same. Through its workshops and seminars, the WSBLN provides networking opportunities for employers and service providers to recruit, hire, retain, promote and improve customer service for people with disabilities.

How are you funded/structured?

The WSBLN is an all-volunteer organization that went through a rebuilding phase in 2011-2012 after their grant from the state expired. The Board of Directors made the strategic decision to not replace the departing paid executive to change from monthly meetings to semiannual educational and networking events. In October of 2012, the WSBLN presented a half day seminar titled “Diversity and Inclusion: Employing People with Disabilities”. It was a sold out event and well received by employers and service providers. The keynote address was given by USBLN® Executive Director, Jill Houghton, who flew out for the event earning the gratitude of the WSBLN Board of Directors. The event included two educational sessions.

What outstanding services are you offering to employers to engage/serve them?
We are currently planning two events for 2013 and one webinar. We are also expanding the Board of Directors and looking to contract with a local organization for administrative support.

How has the USBLN® been of assistance to you as a BLN?

We get several benefits from our affiliation with the USBLN®. First of all, we have gotten support from Lynn Kirkbride and Jill Houghton as we rebuilt this organization. We attend the annual conferences and the networking with other affiliates is educational as well as enjoyable. The When we are talking to local employers about the WSBLN, the fact we are a part of the USBLN® increases our clout and credibility.

WSBLN President, Erin Colwell, states, “The WSBLN is alive today because of a group of 5 dedicated board members who believe in its mission and vision and refused walk away when we no longer had the grant money. It has taken a great deal of time and hard work by this small but amazing board and we deserve to be proud that we now have a strategic plan that will guide us through the next several years.”

In addition to Erin Colwell (Orion Industries) the board members are Wendy Martindale (Tacoma Goodwill), Genny Seidensticker (Skills, Inc.), Colleen Fukui-Sketchley (Nordstrom), Nancie Payne (Payne & Associates) and Effenus Henderson, Weyerhaeuser. Board Member Emeritus is LaDrene Coyne (L. Coyne and Associates).