The Chamber’s Mission: Thinking About Tomorrow
In 2014, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce Developed a New Mission; to serve the greater Modesto Area and its businesses and build community prosperity through advocacy, collaboration, access to leaders, economic development, connectivity, and business education. My goal today is to impress upon you the important ways that the Chamber is working towards its mission, fulfilling its vision, and thinking about tomorrow.
The Chamber provides opportunities for you and your business leaders to connect. Opportunities for face to face introductions are becoming more and more important. While technology has provided more ways to communicate, it also isolates and keeps many people from developing the relationships that they need to be successful in the future. The Chamber’s Business Before Hours, Business After Hours and Showcase your Business Events give our members the opportunity to shake hands, exchange business cards, exchange ideas and build lasting business and personal relationships. They also give our members important and valuable opportunities to market their businesses and inform the business community of the good things that their businesses do.
The Chamber also provides other ways to market your business. The Chamber Directory is the go-to source for many newcomers trying to decide what businesses to frequent. The award winning Progress Magazine provides opportunities for businesses to advertise or contribute promotional articles and support your Chamber and the community at the same time. Progress provides important information about the community and the work that the Chamber is doing in the community. It is an important publication that I encourage all of you to read.
The Chamber mission statement also includes advocacy. The Chamber plays an extremely important role in advocating for the business community. Through its advocacy, the Chamber is always striving to build a better business climate for tomorrow. The Chamber is the strongest community voice for business and often the only voice presenting the business perspective at the table. Just its presence —and the Chamber is present— at government meetings serves as a reminder to our elected officials that the business community is an important stakeholder in the city who’s interests should be heavily weighed in decisions that are made.
Advocacy does not mean that that the Chamber pounds the table or becomes a thorn in the sides of our local officials; although it is sometime perceived that way. Primarily, advocacy is the development of relationships with others who deeply care about our community, including our elected officials, our City Manager, our County CEO and many others who play roles in government and in other community organizations. Government listens when we talk because we work hard to build trusting relationships we share a common set of values, and we care deeply about our future.
Access to Leadership
These relationships not only make the Chamber an advocate for business in general, but also an advocate for your individual business when it is needed. Part of our mission is to provide our members with access to leadership. Through these relationships and through our Government Relations Committee, access has been and will continue to be created. There are many examples of where this access has helped individual businesses. This access is enhanced when you get involved with the Chamber. We encourage our members to join our committees, to let their voices be heard, but to mostly join us in developing the relationships with community leaders that will help them and their community.
Not only does the Chamber provide access to leaders, the Chamber helps to develop the leaders of tomorrow. Through Leadership Modesto, our future business and community leaders learn about our community and the importance of getting involved in the community. But the most important aspect of LEMO are the relationships that LEMO class members forge with each other. These relationships help build bridges, help business, and help our community. LEMO looks to tomorrow.
Through Chamber University and in partnership, the Chamber sponsors or co-sponsors educational sessions on HR issues, ADA, accounting, business formation, and other important issues concerning local business. The Chamber also provides education on community issues through the State of the Region and State of Business and Education events. The Chamber’s Green Team provides education relating to energy efficiency helping to save our members on utility costs and at the same time improve our environment. The Green Team can certify your business as “Green” – a marketing tool that has proved very valuable for many businesses in our community.
Our mission includes economic development. The Chamber’s goal is the improvement of the Overall Business Environment. The Chamber will continue to focus on jobs – that is, finding ways to reduce the double digit unemployment and underemployment in our community and increasing the number of jobs that pay living wages. We will work closely with the Alliance to provide opportunities for our local businesses to grow. We will continue to work closely with the LCR, the Alliance, and other organizations to help to improve the jobsclimate in our community.
We will continue to work with our partners to promote our community and continue our efforts to provide additional sites along major transportation corridors where new core industry can locate and existing core industry can expand without having to go through costly and lengthy approval processes.
We will support the efforts to get the ACE Train to Modesto. The ACE Train will reduce commute times, improve our air quality and our quality of life. We will be able to take ACE to the 49er Games – however, some of their off-season moves do not seem to be helping market this endeavor.
We will continue to work with our community partners to make sure our work force is ready to be employed. We have high unemployment, yet many of our manufacturers cannot find workers within the area that are qualified for the jobs they seek. This is unacceptable. This is why the Chamber is active with SPIE and supported the formation of the Boys & Girls Club. If we want to reduce crime, if we want to reduce gang membership, IF we want to increase graduation rates, IF we want to improve the image of our community and provide a long term solution to our community’s problems, we’d better focus on our children. I can think of nothing more powerful in improving the image of our community than going from 70 percent graduation rate to a 90 percent graduation rate, reducing meth use, auto theft, gang membership, and violent and petty crime by similar rates. SPIE and the BGC WILL provide our children with HOPE. We had darn well better deliver in providing our children with OPPORTUNITY and in helping them get prepared to enter the working world.
The Chamber will continue to be the voice for business on issues relating to water. Very often we are the only voice for business at the table on this very important issue. We want your opinions and your feedback on water issues as they develop and we will be at the table to support the agricultural interests that are the backbone of our local economy.
Finally, the Chamber’s mission includes collaboration. I want to end with a very important collaboration that the Chamber is involved with that is critical to the future economic development of our community – The Downtown Modesto Partnership.
We’ve been working hard to bring together a diverse group of concerned citizens and organizations to deal with the issues that impact downtown and to better coordinate and support efforts aimed at bettering the downtown. Current participants include representatives from the City, County, DID, CVB, the faith based community and Arts and Entertainment community, the Alliance, the Chamber and, of course, downtown business owners. The DMP provides vision, support, funding and accountability for four separate committees around the following general areas, Economic Development, Urban Design, Marketing and Promotion, and Operations.
I would like to share that vision. It consists of three parts:
- Downtown Modesto is a safe, inviting, and beautiful place that inspires a powerful sense of community pride.
- Downtown Modesto is a vibrant destination for community connection, with world-class cuisine, arts and entertainment – indisputably the place to be.
- Downtown Modesto is bursting with business growth and new development; the place for shopping, upscale urban living and innovative enterprise.
Downtown is what most visitors see when they first enter our community. It is our city’s living room – the central hub of business, government, and culture. When people visit the Gallo Center or the Doubletree, government offices, or businesses that are located downtown, we want them to be impressed with the environment that embodies the spirit of who we are as a community. We have a long way to go, but the Downtown Modesto Partnership is a big step in the right direction.
As we look around our country, we are finding that businesses are returning to downtown. That people, more and more, are moving downtown. Why is this happening? Why do we need this to happen here? People are realizing that many good ideas come from interacting with others. Those interactions happen in downtowns – the living rooms of cities. Ideas are shared. Business cards are exchanged. Important professional and business relationships are forged. Our downtown needs to be developed to encourage this. Out of these interactions, innovations happen. Entrepreneurs are born. And economies boom. For our community to be economically successful, we need to be on the vanguard of coming economic trends. We need to get in front of the wave that is coming, rather than paddle behind the wave that has already past.
We cannot and should not depend on the government to fix our problems. These are our community’s problems. When we say “THEY should do something about the problems,” the THEY is US. This attitude that government should solve our problems has resulted in a disconnect between people and their communities. Instead, we need to view government as a partner or facilitator for the resolution of issues we ALL face. As we get involved, we also develop a strong sense of community and involvement that is sorely lacking in our society. Collaborative partnerships like the Downtown Partnership bring diverse people and organizations together as a strong force to deal with our problems. It goes slow, as one might imagine an organization of diverse people and organizations would go, but it does go forward. And when it takes a step, it is powerful. It spans across platforms and breaks down silos. It encourages us to take ownership and responsibility for what we have. How is the DMP breaking those silos down? How do we forge these partnerships? By focusing on core values that span all of these organizations: A desire to see a VIBRANT and PROSPEROUS community. By doing this we can move MOUNTAINS! There is hope for tomorrow thanks to the determination of leaders in all of these silos, including your Chamber, coming together to forge powerful connections toward common goals. Your Chamber wants to see more of this in our community and will do its utmost to support such efforts. We will not stop thinking about tomorrow. We will not stop working for a better future for Modesto.
By David Giannelli, Giannelli & Associates