Chamber chair outlines vision for business success, community prosperity | Opinion

As this year’s chairman of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I am excited about the work ahead. We have many challenges, but the Chamber is prepared, and I hope you’ll join us in advancing a bold vision for our community.

Together we can lead the way in creating success for businesses and a higher quality of life for our entire region.

In 2020, the Chamber pivoted quickly to help businesses not only survive, but thrive during the pandemic. We also re-evaluated our strategic plan and engaged in a process to refocus our mission, vision and priorities.

We looked at research, market trends and models from around the country. The result is a refreshed approach that underscores businesses’ role in driving economic growth and creating solutions to our community’s challenges. The strategic plan includes three pillars:

Talent, workforce and education

The Chamber is dedicated to making Tallahassee the talent capital of Florida. Launching TalentHub, an online platform to assist our workforce in exploring careers, building skills and finding jobs, was a major step in 2020.

In conjunction, you will see an employer led collective that will build on industry best practices and focused on employer return on investment. The Talent Pipeline Management program has a strategic alignment between classroom and career. It will build external pipelines, adequately preparing talent that has yet to walk through the door, as well as strategies for backfilling, upskilling, career pathway development and success planning.

We will encourage partnerships between businesses and Leon County Schools, our region’s higher educational institutions and will continue the momentum by hosting events for students to engage directly with employers.

You’ll hear the Chamber advocating for a community-wide response to issues such as improving kindergarten readiness, third grade reading scores and post-secondary attainment rates, as we seek to create a place where all residents are prepared for and have access to education beyond high school.

Community and prosperity

The Chamber recognizes the critical role businesses play in strengthening the prosperity, livability and safety of our community. We will launch the Prosperity LEON Initiative with community partners to highlight private sector solutions that can address the root causes of issues such as poverty and economic disparity.

We plan to conduct an annual Community Health, Safety and Livability Survey to identify areas for collective action and track our progress. We are also dedicated to growing a more diverse Chamber membership and supporting the growth of women and minority businesses.

Economic competitiveness and business climate

The Tallahassee region has all the right ingredients to be a place where even more people want to live, work, play and stay. We must advance policies that promote a welcoming business environment and job growth. This means everything from tracking the time that it takes to issue building permits and providing feedback to local government to conducting one-on-one meetings with industry leaders and assisting in marketing our region to new businesses.

In conjunction with statistics offered through the Office of Economic Vitality, Florida Chamber and Department of Economic Opportunity, we will pull together a community scorecard focusing on the data points and metrics aligned with our strategic pillars. This community scorecard will be transparent and shared via our website and regularly through our communication channels. All of us have a part to play in helping move these metrics forward, and your Chamber leadership is dedicated to working collaboratively in the community to help see a positive progression in the years to come.

These are just a few highlights of the Chamber’s vision. I invite you to learn more and get involved by visiting Together we can create a community where businesses thrive, individuals prosper and every voice matters.

Jay Smith is vice president of Ajax Building Company and chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.