A Note from the Chairman of the Board

 In Advocating, Coaching, Connecting, Membership

Dear Members of the Chamber,

A belated Happy Father’s Day from the Chamber and the Chamber board. I hope that all of the fathers from among our members had a great day!

I wanted to take this time—at the midpoint of my service as board chair—to offer my perspective on the year so far. In the midst of unprecedented events, there have been successes and lots of new opportunities. I am extremely pleased with how the Chamber, David, and the Chamber staff have responded. I am proud of how the Chamber has led the way on a number of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all with a direct impact on our community’s business environment. I am also pleased with the Chamber’s operational tempo and strategy during this challenging time, especially as it relates to their advocacy agenda.

Regarding the Chamber’s response to COVID-19, I am excited to share a number of benchmarks that exemplify the Chamber’s steady presence over the last several months. First, the Chamber has been rock solid in their support of local businesses. For example, they have grown their capacity to coach digitally and to offer online programming like interviews and workshops via Facebook Live. The Chamber also activated the Facebook page “Businesses Standing Together” to serve as a repository for pandemic-related resources. The page has become a central locale to disperse critical information and for local businesses to network and advocate for their services.

The Chamber also initiated a new vital program for businesses owners and operators: the Business Solutions Center (BSC). The BSC has fielded more than a thousand calls in its first few weeks of operation and those calls have provided confidential, business coaching for a number of businesses on topics as diverse as PPP payroll support and messaging for stakeholders.

From a broader perspective, the Chamber has led the way locally with surveys of the business community—both at the start of the pandemic and again as businesses began to reopen. The data collected reveals critical information about the initial impact of COVID-19 and the needs of businesses as they reopen. Already, the data has been used by a number of government entities at the local, regional, and federal level. I am especially pleased that the data has had a meaningful impact in moving forward policy decisions at the local level.

Advocacy is a central part of the Chamber’s mission and I want to emphasize the importance of the Chamber’s advocacy work as the pandemic unfolded. Throughout the pandemic, the Chamber has had an important a role in a number of local policy discussions and was especially significant in the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Taskforce, which they helped to form and into which they placed several members. The taskforce has driven many local decisions that aim to get the economy back on track while maintaining citizens safety.

Concurrently, the Chamber has continued its broader, more dynamic advocacy strategy. I am pleased by this, largely because it points to the nimbleness of the organization to respond to pressing issues while keeping an eye focused on the goals set at the start of the year. All Chamber policy committees are up and running through digital platforms; Chamber staff have been excellent in maintaining the communication linkages between members and especially committee members. The Chamber has remained committed to transportation at the state level with concentrated efforts aimed at the downtown I-10 expansion and deck park. Also, the Chamber has continued its efforts at advocating for downtown development and as recent legal decisions seem to indicate, that advocacy should begin to show rewards as the arena project commences.

All in all, the Chamber has continued to make a difference for the community and for its members.  During the pandemic, I have also been pleased to see how much the Chamber has advocated for businesses more broadly, recognizing that business is going to get us back on track locally, regionally, and nationally. If you have ever considered joining the Chamber, now is the time!

VJ Smith