Coffee Talk is a monthly informal chat between Washington Filmworks staff and local film industry professionals and arts organizations to better understand what it is they do, how our work and missions intersect, and what we can do to support like-minded projects moving forward.
Andy Kaplowitz is a bit of an anomaly. As the Membership Manager at the Association of Washington Business (AWB), Kaplowitz is a die-hard liberal at what has been known historically as a mostly conservative organization.
Kaplowitz has led a colorful life thus far, including being a self-described “theater geek,” playing trombone on stage with Dizzy Gillespie and Branford Marsalis, doing stand up comedy, and even playing the role of a Jewish beekeeping monk on the television show Northern Exposure.
He took his mother’s advice about using his “mind for numbers” and started his career working the corporate finance beat on Wall Street doing mergers and acquisitions. From there, he got into the mortgage business, “because I wanted to see people smile instead of sweat,” and worked on economic incentives for Amazon.
Eventually, Kaplowitz found his way into the political realm, writing about policy issues for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner before coming to AWB.
The Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 8,000 members representing over 700,000 employees. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, more than half of AWB’s members are small businesses.
“I feel like what’s great about AWB is that we try to be the voice for small businesses,” says Kaplowitz. “We’ve got large companies like Google, Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, Facebook, and Amazon, but most of our members come from businesses that employ less than 100 people.”
AWB has worked on issues such as regulatory reform, and tax incentives and reductions that help attract and maintain businesses in Washington State.
“We’re advocates for the entire economy. We want Washington State to remain relevant; to thrive and prosper, and we’ll do everything within our power to make sure that’s the case,” explains Kaplowitz. “We take a step back and we say, ‘How does this impact the economy?’ and we don’t always side with things that everyone in our membership is going to be in support of.”
In addition to holding events for their members such as a manufacturing summit, a spring meeting, and other regional meetings, AWB organizes an annual policy summit. Kaplowitz describes the policy summit as “the grand daddy of them all…it’s our Rose Bowl.”
The summit includes a diverse agenda and line-up, and draws in business moguls and thought leaders throughout the state and country who have a stake in seeing the Washington economy remain vital and strong.
This year, a main legislative priority for AWB is working on passing a small business incentive in the most difficult budgetary climate that the state has ever faced. The organization put together a listening tour last spring, where they went to 15 different communities across the state to gather feedback. As Kaplowitz explains:
“We met with members and non members, and asked questions that basically boiled down to “What’s keeping you up at night?’ ‘What’s working, what’s not working, what do you want to see less of or more of, whether it’s about the role of government, or licensing, or the many other issues that effect small businesses in this state.”
Kaplowitz insists that the key to getting attention for their agenda is to leverage their base and prove that these issues are important for legislators on both sides of the aisle in order to “make conversations happen.”
“Which is where, I think, Washington Filmworks fits into the picture,” Kaplowitz says. “With the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program (MPCP), it’s about the economy.”
Having worked in the industry previously, Kaplowitz knows that when a production comes to film in the state, every sector of the local economy is impacted. Money is spent with restaurants, hardware stores, hotels, antique stores, and a myriad of other types of businesses.
“Washington Filmworks is trying to elevate the conversation. To say it’s not just about motion pictures – it’s about something bigger, and this is really benefiting the economy as a whole.”
Washington Filmworks is pleased to be a member of AWB and would like to thank them for their support of the 2016 legislation to renew to MPCP.
For more information about AWB, click here.