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Message From the CEO – August 2015 

The focus of this issue of Progress is education. We continue to believe that education is essential to economic development. A well-educated work force helps attract companies with great jobs to locate and expand in our community.

The Modesto Chamber will have its annual State of Business and Education forum Thursday, August 20th, at the Martin G. Petersen Center in downtown Modesto. The theme of this year’s event is “INCREASE YOUR PROFITS BY INVESTING IN HIGHER EDUCATION.” Our guest speakers will include Dr. Joseph Sheley, President of California State University Stanislaus, and Jill Stearns, President of Modesto Junior College. Their presentations will be stressing the importance of higher education, and how your business can assist your family and employees in the pursuit of post-secondary education and training.

We will also share success stories from some of our locally-educated individuals that have been supported by their companies and have gone on to thrive in their careers. So mark your calendar for August 20th and become a part of the success of education in our area.

Speaking of education, have you ever wanted to learn Chinese? We have partnered with Huey Y. Lee, a prominent member of our Chinese community, and she will be teaching Mandarin Chinese. Her classes will be starting September 4th. For more information Email: ModestoChineseSchool@yahoo.com or visit her website at: www.ModestoChineseSchool.wordpress.com.

We are also preparing for election season. On November’s ballot, there will be the Mayor’s race, three City Council seats and three seats on the Modesto School Board, two seats on the Sylvan School Board, and some very important ballot measures/initiatives. The Modesto Chamber’s Government Relations Council will be conducting its interviews with the candidates and reporting the results to you in the September and October additions of Progress, as well as on the Chamber’s website. Please become familiar with the candidates and all of the issues and don’t forget to VOTE.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the groundbreaking for the Miracle League Stanislaus County. This has been a vision and a labor of love for a group of people that have wanted to bring the opportunity to experience the joy of childhood with the great American pastime of baseball to the many thousands of disabled Stanislaus County children. This vision will result in a specialized field developed to address the safety hazards for players with wheelchairs or walkers. Thanks to the generous donations from so many in our community, the Miracle League will commence league play in the spring of 2016. Their new baseball field and facilities will be located at the corner of Pelandale and Carver. For more information go to: www.miracleleaguemodesto.com.

There is a group of downtown business owners that have been working to form a Modesto Downtown Partnership and Community Benefit District. The purpose of this group is to help to develop a renewed energy to promote business growth in our downtown area. Their goals are to improve the individual property parcels, attract new customers to their business, increase sales, increase occupancies, and enhance the appearance of the parcels. Their concept is to build on keeping the greater downtown area clean, safe, orderly, attractive, well-marketed with special events and programs, and to increase foot traffic and commerce. This is not a government entity, but a self-funded assessment to fund the activities of the Modesto Downtown Partnership.

The City of Modesto will perform a total review of all tourism and destination venues, including the organizations that market and support them. The goal is to create a marketing vision and implementation plan that will enable all Modesto area destinations to prosper and thrive. Equally important is the effort to improve Modesto’s overall image and explore branding methods that are relevant and effective. Included in the review is the Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB), whose 15 year contract expired July 1st. CVB was funded from the City’s General Fund through the transient occupancy tax collected from hotels within the city. All CVB tasks and functions will continue as before and are temporarily stationed in the City’s Community and Economic Development program until the new plan emerges.

The next step is to create a Task Force representing community stakeholders passionate about developing a more strategic approach to tourism and visitor attraction. This task force will be comprised of enthusiastic leaders from the cultural, business, entertainment and sports interests throughout Modesto. It will be job of the Task Force to develop the vision and the plan to set the future course. The Chamber of Commerce has been asked to provide a representative on the Task Force, and we are happy to participate in this much-needed program.

I also had the pleasure to tour the new Pelandale overpass with a group of elected officials and other business people. This project will improve the traffic flow dramatically. The project is headed by Bill Sandu from the City of Modesto, and the City deserves a great amount of credit – first for acquiring the funding, then designing the project, and finally for managing the project. The project is ahead of schedule and is coming in below budget. The first phase opened to traffic the end of July and will be completed mid-2016. The monument that will welcome everyone to Modesto will be completed at that time [see the photograph below]. This monument will help engender pride in our City of Modesto, and be a symbol of our City to all those who travel through the Central Valley.

Finally, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Modesto Bee to provide benefits to both our members and the readers of the Bee. This partnership has been in the making for about a year, and the staff of both of these venerable organizations have worked hard to put it together. As part of this undertaking, Chamber members will be receiving an email from the Modesto Bee soon offering them a free “Online Reputation Report” about their specific business. Chamber members can also receive a subscription rate to the print version of the Modesto Bee and unlimited digital access at 75% off, free market research, and several ways to earn discounts on advertising. As the Modesto Bee continues to create an advanced digital platform and new methods for marketing online, we will continue to strive to acquire premium and exclusive digital and print marketing opportunities from the Bee for our Chamber members.

Cecil Russell

Chamber President and CEO

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