The reasons why the economy continues to struggle may be complicated, but the message for the 480 attendees at last week’s Annual Breakfast Meeting of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce was simple – it’s time to move forward.
The meeting, sponsored by Hotel Duval and Thomas University, marked the transition of leadership from outgoing Chair attorney Glenda Thornton to Matt Brown, president of Premier B a n k . Brown set the stage with some sobering realities impacting area businesses. “We are facing multiple years of state budget deficits,” he said. “Tourism across the state is down, resulting in a 65-percent decline in sales tax revenues. Unemployment is at a 34-year high. Plus consumer debt is high and our population is down.”
The keys to overcoming such obstacles, according to Brown, are creating jobs and demonstrating leadership. “We will need strong leaders – and not just from the Board,” he
said. “Everyone will need to be involved. Can we overcome these challenges? Together, we can.”
The key is to focus on the solution, not the problem, Brown said. “We are at the doorstep of the greatest economic development opportunity since the soldiers came back from Word War II. But we will be judged by our footsteps and not our words – which will require
leadership – starting in the small-business community. Jobs will come only through our efforts.”
Over the next year, Brown said the Chamber will focus on accountability to its members and the community. “Measure and report will be our priority for 2010,” Brown said. “Our
members rank networking high on their priority list, but we also have lots of time invested in advocacy – working with our local governments. We must remain trusted conveners
on important issues. A year from now, I want to come together and celebrate that
we overcame racial, spiritual, political, geographic and age differences to work together
and move this community forward.”
Brown then gave way to audience members recounting specific ways in which the Chamber has contributed to their success over the last year. Bill Oliver, of Oliver Renovation and Construction, said the Chamber’s work with the city on streamlining the permitting process helped create jobs. “Their efforts directly affected me and my
business in a positive way,” he said.
Joe Amanfu, owner of Seed Word Communications, spoke of the value of the free one-on-
one counseling sessions with Betty Presnell of the Jim Moran Institute. Sam Littlefield, owner of Gutter Solutions, said he has learned ways to improve his business from attending programs, while Christina Neuhauser of Salter Mitchell, said her colleagues took advantage of free professional-development classes to improve their office skills.
Others told how the Chamber was reaching out to local schools, young professionals, regional business partners and developing leaders to create strong bonds and common goals for a stronger community. The event concluded with breakout sessions on developing financial projections, time management and social marketing.