State of the Chamber Address
The Modesto Chamber of Commerce has accomplished a lot in the past and I want to let you know what we are working on going forward. But first I wanted to share a few things about me for those that don’t know me. My family and I moved to Modesto from Fresno in June 2009 when I had an opportunity to join F & M Bank. I am married to Pam, we just had our 19 year anniversary and we have a son Zac who is a junior at Beyer High. I am involved in downtown rotary “MORO” and on the board of Community Hospice and Del Rio Country Club.
I joined the Chamber because, as a banker, my entire career has been about helping businesses and watching them grow and flourish. Modesto has welcomed us with open arms. We love Modesto and want to help make it a better place like all of you. When our business community is strong and healthy, it provides job opportunities for the citizens of Modesto.
I am really optimistic about Modesto and the business community going forward. Modesto has new leadership. We just elected three new city council members. We have a new City Manager that is creating a new set of expectations at the city to be more business-friendly. The city also recently hired Cindy Birdsill to oversee economic development. She came to us from Florida. Cindy has already brought a number of new ideas and a fresh way to look at things.
We need to start off with looking at the positive aspects of Modesto and not focus on the negative. Modesto is a great place to live and provide quality of life. Look at the Gallo Center for the Arts. It’s one of our showpiece features in downtown Modesto and helps our local restaurants and retailers in the downtown area. I love our downtown.
The voters have made it clear they don’t want to be taxed to provide more police or services, so we need to grow the economy to generate more revenue to provide more police, fire, and other services. Economic development is key and the Chamber of Commerce is all about creating new jobs and Economic development
Let me share some of the things we are working on to make Modesto more business-friendly: First off we want to partner and collaborate with ALL those involved when the city is working on the updated general plan. Now that Measure I was defeated and is behind us, we can really look into the future and design a plan that will bring thousands of jobs to Modesto in the future. We want to invite ALL the stakeholders to the table to give their input.
We are working with the city to look at the processes at city hall and how can they be improved to make Modesto more business- friendly for our local businesses. We see opportunities to improve efficiencies and service levels to the business community.
We are working with the city to review the fee structures for new permits or remodels for in-fill areas where services exist and don’t need to be added to an area. Are we competitive? We will find out. The Chamber also has a seat on the newly formed City of Modesto Safer Neighborhood Committee, which has citizens from various parts of the community overseeing how funds are spent. We have a new downtown investment district to make downtown better. We want to partner with them in any way we can. Our downtown is one of the best in the valley, but we can help make it even better.
We are also in the process of reorganizing our website and our member benefits to make us easier to use. We plan to survey our membership throughout the year to see what their needs are and how we can add value to our members. We want and value your feedback to better serve you. Lastly we have the self-help road tax coming on the ballot in 2016.The Modesto Chamber will be doing what we can to help the coalition working on this important measure. As you can see we have a lot of irons in the fire to help our members and grow our economic base.
To close, I want you to imagine our business community as a 747 jet with an engine on each side. One side is our philanthropic side which is absolutely unbelievable and going 100 percent. The other side is our civic side, which is not as strong. Many of our business leaders are not as involved as they could be for a variety of reasons. I would ask each of you to think how you can get involved. There is new leadership on the council and in the city, and we need to support them and give them a chance.
An easy way to get involved is attend our committee meetings. This is where the rubber meets the road and you get to hear from subject matter experts and ask questions. The chamber has a number of committees for a variety of interests. Our most active are Economic Development, Government Relations, and we just started a new public safety committee to look for ways to partner with Police and Fire. For those that are engaged, thank you for all you do. For those not engaged, I would challenge you to get engaged and lets all work to make Modesto better.
Eric Tobias, Chairman of the Board