Bouthillier: We are at critical economic development point

From the Tallahassee Democrat

My View, by Reggie Bouthillier, Chairman, Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

In recent months, there has been debate about the state of our local economy and the path forward. We are now at a critical point in our history, where decisions to be made in the upcoming months and year by the city, county and Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency will determine whether the economic vitality of Tallahassee/Leon County will be advanced to the next level.

This will require the commitment and collaboration of our community leaders to prioritize improving our business environment. To this end, last month the Board of Directors for the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce took another important step in the implementation of our strategic plan (launched last October) to establish and advocate for principles that will improve our business environment.

Last year, after obtaining substantial input and direction from our members, the Chamber board adopted a strategic plan that focuses on three key areas:

  • Growing business
  • Advocating for business
  • Driving value to members

The Chamber, representing 1,400 businesses and over 50,000 employees, will continue to be the premier voice of business and seek to positively impact the economic vitality of our community. In pursuit of this objective, the Chamber Board unanimously adopted the following six guiding principles, which must be the focus of our community in order to improve our business environment:

  1. We believe in policies that will positively impact business retention and expansion.
  2. We believe that government leadership must prioritize growing our local business and economy, as reflected in its culture, policies and budget.
  3. We believe in providing a strong infrastructure to support growing local business and our economy.
  4. We believe regulations should be streamlined and reduced to facilitate business growth.
  5. We believe tax and fee burdens should be minimized on business, and we will only support an increase in taxes or fees on local business which demonstrate measurable benefits to local business and the economy.
  6. We believe a strong talent development system should be created which supports our current workforce needs and establishes a talent pipeline to meet future workforce demands.

These six guiding principles will drive our day-to-day work, and will serve as a baseline for positions the Chamber will take on important issues facing our community.

Over the past few weeks the Chamber has met with many city and county leaders (and will continue to do so in the upcoming weeks) to review the Chamber’s new program of work and these six guiding principles. We have asked our city and county leaders to make growing our local business, diversifying our economy, and improving our business environment their top priority.

The Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency is responsible for spending approximately $800 million dollars over a 20-year period, of which 88 percent will be used for major infrastructure projects, and 12 percent for economic projects as directed by the newly formed Office of Economic Vitality.  This puts our community in the unique position to take our economy to the next level.

We have been encouraged by many of our local city and county leaders who have expressed their desire to prioritize the economy and the business environment. We also recognize there will be times of disagreement despite best efforts to collaborate; however, we will not waiver from these principles and will hold government leaders accountable when they choose a different path.

Tallahassee has a bright and vibrant future on the horizon. In order for our community to usher in a period of accelerated business growth and enhanced economic vitality, we must remain dedicated to strong principles that can shape a positive and thriving business environment.

We look forward to working with our members, the business community, higher education institutions and government leaders to collaboratively identify the opportunities for doing so.