Small business is the heart of the American economy. It’s true in big cities and small towns, and it’s certainly true in Florida’s capital city. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 22.9 million small businesses in the U.S., located in virtually every neighborhood, creating 75 percent of the net new jobs in our economy.
In Tallahassee, there are 8,500 active business licenses, and 80 percent of Chamber members are small businesses, with 50 or fewer employees. Many of those have one employee or are home-based. In other words, the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in our nation and our community.
For many years, May has been designated as National Small Business Month, and we just celebrated the accomplishments of our finest local businesses at the Chamber Awards, an annual ceremony recognizing businesses for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the community. This year, over 70 businesses were represented in six categories — Health & Wellness, Manufacturing, Non Profit/Association, Service Industry, Start Up and Technology. We also recognized the Chamber Business of the Year. For a complete list of finalists and winners, visit chamber.clientwebstage.com. It was an encouraging event as the entire business community as well as local community leaders acknowledged the importance of small businesses to the quality of life we enjoy here.
But as anyone who has ever made the jump from business idea to business launch knows, owning a small business is not easy, and having the support of an organization designed to strategically increase your chances of success is critical.
The focus of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is, and has always been, making Tallahassee a better place to live by helping build successful businesses that provide jobs, support families and give back to the community. We believe having the kind of community in which people want to raise their families, get involved in civic activities or spend their active years, starts with providing the quality of life that comes from a thriving business community.
This year, the Chamber has focused on member benefits, revamping programs and offering direct return on investment for each of our members in new and innovative ways. We understand that margins are still thin for many and that every decision is important. We tell members, Our Business is Your Business, because meeting individual, real-time business needs is the best way to ensure that they are getting what they need.
Unfortunately, the days of belonging to the Chamber because it was the “right” thing to do are gone. Our members expect to be able to justify every expense, including an investment in a membership organization, which is why every year the Chamber evaluates member needs and adapts programs and services to provide maximum return on investment and tangible benefits that help businesses be more successful.
Regardless of the economic environment or size of the business, members are always most helped by receiving Chamber members benefits in three main areas — training resources/professional development, networking/business connections, and business advocacy.
Having access to targeted professional development opportunities and free training that includes help with office software, management and sales is always needed. The Chamber is perhaps best known for its many forums created to enhance networking and making connections in settings ranging from focused annual gatherings to joining a leads group designed to create business connections. And while business advocacy is often strategic, Chamber leaders and staff work tirelessly with local and state government entities to ensure our local businesses have every opportunity to succeed and Tallahassee has the opportunity to maintain our quality of life.
There are many things about the future of our community that we cannot predict, but one thing is certain — strong, growing local businesses will play a large part in our success. Being a member of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is perhaps the single most important way to ensure the business environment remains strong and that business owners have the resources they need to endure the storms and take full advantage of opportunities when they arise.
I never cease to be amazed by the strength, innovation and character of our members, who consistently impress me with their desire to see this community flourish. They understand whether they have launched a new business product or expanding to gain market share , they can learn from each other and work together to help both themselves and this community grow. That’s the power of membership in the Chamber.