Washington Roundtable recently welcomed new board members. To get to know them better, we asked them questions about their new role. Learn more below from Earl Overstreet II, President Emeritus of GMI, and Frank Armijo, Principal of The Armijo Group.
Why did you decide to join the Washington Roundtable?
EO: My first impression of the Washington Roundtable was decades ago. The context was related to business taxes or regulation. The organization seemed to be an influential, prestigious group that advocated for the interests of big businesses. In the last few years, I have seen the Roundtable in a much broader role. I have observed and engaged with the Roundtable in two areas that are personal passions: education and equity. Joining the Washington Roundtable gives me the opportunity to participate directly in an organization that has the credibility and connections to bring forward ideas and build coalitions to address the large and complex challenges and opportunities facing our community.
FA: For a very long time the Roundtable has been a leading voice for a strong business environment in Washington state. The Roundtable has many of the companies and leaders that drive innovation and business diversity of our economy. Being able to participate and support the continued strength of our state and way of life is an honor.
What role can and should the business community play in our state through the work done via organizations like the Roundtable?
EO: Sustainable thriving communities have business, government, nonprofit, and community groups that work together to tackle problems and capitalize on opportunities. The resources, diversity, flexibility, and long-term viewpoint of the business community can often break down silos and act as a bridge or catalyst to help the community find and implement solutions.
FA: The leadership of the Roundtable often observes key trends and issues before they become evident to policymakers. Through business trends or our national or international operations, issues and opportunities can be identified early. Roundtable members often discuss these issues and compare notes. We can then start a dialog with state business and policy leaders in support of our state’s success. As a business from Eastern Washington, I also hope to continue voicing key issues and opportunities for all of Washington to work together on.
One of the Roundtable’s biggest areas of focus is working to ensure more young Washingtonians complete the post-high school credentials that our state’s economy demands. Why is it important to you to participate in efforts to ensure students’ success in their education and careers?
EO: I know as a Black person, based on personal experience and stories of countless others, that education is the great equalizer. My parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio from the South after World War II in search of the opportunities that employment and education can bring. They could see doors opening in the corporate world for Blacks. They wanted us to be prepared to walk through those doors. The Roundtable’s focus on post-high school credentials sets an important goal as we strive to close achievement gaps in our community. Post-high school credential attainment is the next step to eventually embracing life-long learning as a cultural norm in our community.
FA: An educated and skilled workforce is critical to our state’s economy. As business leaders and Roundtable members, we understand our businesses cannot achieve our goals without students having the educational foundation that will support their careers. I have always been passionate about education, especially STEM education and first-generation college students. I am glad the WRT will continue to focus on this effort.