Lending an ear to Clark County

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Elisa Williams was named Business and Features Editor in March. This is her introduction column that tells readers a little about her and her vision for the business section. Her regular weekly business column will launch in July.

When I was about 12 years old, I’d heard a speaker talk about how everyone had a gift.

Not feeling too remarkable in any way, I asked my mother for guidance.

Did she have any idea what my talent might be?

Her answer, after a long pause: “Well … honey. … Let’s see. … Oh, yes, you’re a good listener.”

I was mortified. When it came to determining my strong suit, even my mother came up blank. So the only way my star would shine was if I sat quietly while others spoke?

As it turns out, my mother was on to something.

I figured that out when I found journalism. Asking the right questions is crucial in this job, but it’s even more important to listen closely to the answers.

In my new role editing The Columbian’s business section, it will be my first priority to listen closely to you.

I want our stories to speak to what’s important to you, reflect what’s really happening in your work life and share what you need to know to about business in Southwest Washington to succeed. To that end, I am committed to delivering news and information in any form that’s most useful to you, whether that’s through our Web site, your cell phone, an e-mail or the morning paper.

I also want The Columbian’s Web site to be the vehicle through which Clark County businesses can listen to each other about what’s changing here, what problems are cropping up and who is coming up with the best solutions.

Joining The Columbian’s business news team is a homecoming, of sorts, for me. I was hired by the newspaper in 2003 as an assistant metro editor and went on to become the features editor about two years later. But before becoming an editor, I spent a large portion of my career writing about business.

I covered a wide range of companies from Amgen to Qualcomm to Wells Fargo as a staff writer for Forbes magazine. I wrote about the technology industry for The Oregonian in Portland and The Orange County Register in Southern California. Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to follow the national economy from Washington, D.C., and to report on retailing, real estate and utilities in Florida. Through the years, I’ve written stories during economic bubbles and bursts. I’ve watched the Silicon Forest grow and S&Ls fold.

Even as features editor, part of my job is delivering stories on how the Great Recession has impacted lives in Clark County.

I gravitated to business journalism because I believe that following the money really does get to the bottom of what’s going on in a community.

My job at The Columbian will be different than that of my predecessor, Julia Anderson. I will continue to oversee The Columbian’s features sections including the Life section, our Weekend magazine and the TV Times. The change will enable The Columbian to add another full-time reporter to our business team and focus more of our resources on covering the business community. Part of my job in the future will include writing a regular business column.

I’m excited to take on this new responsibility, and I look forward to ensuring The Columbian’s business coverage works for you.

Elisa Williams is the Columbian's business and features editor. Reach her at 360-735-4561 or elisa.williams@columbian.com.