From the Tallahassee Democrat
Beth Corum rolled out an ambitious to-do list that continues some existing efforts and launches a host of others tackled by the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.
Corum, COO for Capital City Bank, set the tone as she became the new Chair of Chamber’s Board of Directors. During the Chamber’s Annual Breakfast Meeting, Corum introduced plans for an Industry Council, where members will serve as a touch point for prospective businesses interested in relocating or expanding in the capital city.
Another initiative calls for the creation of an asset map plotting out workforce strength and needs to address the talent pipeline shortfalls. The idea is to create a community that is “workforce ready.” Before walking off the Civic Center’s stage, Corum asked the audience of more than 500 attendees to stay engaged and informed on guiding the city’s future.
“I want Tallahassee to be the place where our daughter, Stella, comes back to live because the culture is family friendly, business is thriving. It’s vibrant. It’s charming,” said Corum, COO for Capital City Bank. “And, most importantly, it’s lit.”
The urban colloquialism was the second one dropped during the breakfast meeting. Corum said she learned the term during a trip to Target with her 8-year-old daughter, who sat in the audience.
The “lit” reference was one of a few light moments as Chamber officials celebrated the year’s highlights and laid out the arc of work ahead to advance the local business climate.
“I want to continue to build on the three strategic areas we have identified for members and our community, and that’s growing business, advocating for business and developing that talent in the workforce,” Corum said. “I’m not looking to create something new but to continue the good work we’ve started and place some emphasis in some areas we have identified with needs.”
Another light moment came from Mark O’Bryant, outgoing chairman of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, who referred to the Chamber as a “woke organization.”
To be woke means a person or group is acutely aware of injustices impacting others. The Chamber, O’Bryant said, is taking a more public stance on issues that require a collective effort.
For example, the Chamber’s annual conference in Amelia Island this summer featured workshops on the proposed Children’s Services Council effort and Purpose Built Communities, which signals a heightened awareness and need to reach children.
However, one of O’Bryant’s regrets during his one-year chairmanship was not getting more traction on the Tallahassee International Airport’s role in regional job creation. He said the airport, despite its increase in passenger travel and hiring of a permanent director, is a critical asset that’s under utilized.
“If there’s something we could have done to push further down the line it would be establishing the airport as an economic opportunity for new jobs, not necessarily for passenger travel but to bring freight and transport,” said O’Bryant, president and CEO at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. “Things that create jobs in the community. It can be a driver of new businesses.”
Leon County’s 3.4% unemployment rate for August, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is considered low and on a downward trend. Although, it’s slightly higher than the state’s 3.3 percent unemployment rate for August.
The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality reports the fastest growing industries from 2018 to 2026 are primarily based in healthcare, administrative and vocational jobs, such as tile and marble setters.
Also during the meeting, Florida State University President John Thrasher delivered the keynote address and shared the university’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of research and preparing its students for the workforce.
He said FSU has a $10 billion economic impact on Florida and the university manages a $1.8 billion operating budget, twice that of the city of Tallahassee. He highlighted some of FSU’s achievements, including its four-year graduation rate (the best in the state) and being ranked the 18th top public university in the country.
“I’m glad to see one of the Tallahassee Chamber’s six guiding principles is focused on developing a strong pipeline to meet future workforce needs,” Thrasher said. “We could not be happier about that and certainly want to be a partner with you.”
Like others, Thrasher didn’t gloss over challenges impacting the city’s livability impacted by poverty, homelessness and the highest crime rate for the fifth consecutive year, despite a dip in overall offenses.
“I know we have some issues. We know that. We share some of those concerns with you about those issues with you,” he said. “But Tallahassee is still a great place to live and work and get an education. We are blessed to have Florida State, Florida A&M and (Tallahassee Community College).”