It is time for Seattle City Council members to understand how business contributes to community prosperity, and it is time for them to solicit our insights when trying to tackle community challenges.
As the Seattle City Council moves quickly to pass a tax on jobs, it is critical that we all consider the long- and short-term consequences of establishing a tax that, by its very nature, will hurt job growth.
Everyone in Seattle agrees that we need to end homelessness, but the importance of encouraging, not discouraging, job creation has been left out of the discussion. A study released this week by ECONorthwest shows that job loss is the leading cause of homelessness in our region and that a tax on jobs is likely to undermine entry-level positions the most.
As hospitality industry employers, we are proud to be able to provide a wide range of jobs from management and sales positions to low-barrier, entry-level jobs that offer hard-to-come-by opportunity to people with limited skills or education and to those who need a second chance in life. We invest in training, we promote from our own ranks and a first job in hospitality can turn into a rewarding, lifelong career.
A tax on jobs will hurt our ability to provide these opportunities.
First and foremost, a tax on jobs would hit jobs-intensive service businesses like hotels and restaurants the hardest. It would increase our labor costs at a time when the cost of operating a hospitality business in Seattle keeps on rising, especially for hotels. As any business, we operate in a competitive environment and rising costs mean we must adjust to remain sustainable businesses.
On the other side of the equation is the potential for both our hotels and our region to experience a sizable loss in revenue if the city discourages businesses from building a future in Seattle. Other cities stand ready to welcome Seattle-based businesses with partnerships and rich opportunities for economic development.
Seattle directly benefits from hundreds of thousands of hotel room nights each year thanks to Amazon alone. In 2016, this was 233,000 rooms, which at downtown Seattle hotels translates into close to $6 million in sales and lodging-tax revenue. This is simply for hotel rooms. These and other business travelers also dine in Seattle restaurants, drink coffee in our cafes and shop in our stores, generating more tax revenue and contributing to more jobs within our still robust economy.
Now picture what happens when a slew of businesses, not just Amazon, make the rational profit-and-loss decision to locate employees and perhaps their entire operations to more-welcoming cities that include business when making far-reaching policy decisions.
Our City Council needs to begin to look more holistically at how its policies impact our economy, our shared future and the very people it is trying to help. It is time for council members to understand how business contributes to community prosperity. It is also time for council members to solicit insight from and to build partnerships with business when trying to tackle community challenges.
Hospitality businesses, in particular, are already on the front lines providing much-needed jobs and working side-by-side with nonprofits like Mary’s Place and FareStart to make a lasting impact.
Now we need the council to join us in creating more, not fewer, jobs that will bring greater opportunity and security to all Seattle residents.