Chamber Proves Wise Investment in Tough Economic Year

Matt Brown, Chairman

For the last 11 months, I have had the pleasure of serving as chairman of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. As I approach the end of my term, a year that saw some of the toughest economic conditions in a generation, I could not be more proud of our staff, our members and the perseverance of the business community.

At a time when business opportunities and revenues were declining and marketing dollars became scarce, many members turned to networking opportunities through the Chamber as an inexpensive way to seek new customers and collaborate with each other to generate new sources of income. I personally heard several reports from the recent Annual Chamber Community Conference in which significant new business was transacted resulting from time spent with people they would not normally have access to.

We also saw members demonstrating an increased degree of openness and transparency. Time after time, business people would come together for education and networking and would end up sharing information and combining resources, which resulted in bringing more business to our community.

We started my time as chairman focused on bridge building and creating greater unity between businesses and in all the ways business, education and our local governments work together. Even through the economic challenges, we have made progress, particularly in the area of permitting procedures — thanks in large part to incoming Chair Todd Sperry’s leadership in that area.

Challenges also brought out the best in Chamber programming and activities this year, thanks to the leadership and vision of Chamber President Sue Dick and her highly qualified staff. Members had the opportunity to meet decision makers and potential clients at 74 programs and events, 416 Leads Groups meetings and three annual events — each boasting more than 400 attendees. The Chamber also welcomed 261 new members.

We launched Connect For Lunch, an innovative program that helped members make 416 connections, with 20 Chamber restaurants receiving business to date. And to help directly with operating costs, the Chamber partnered with DOCS to provide discounts on office supplies, a major expense to many small-business owners.

We often have been described as a spoiled business community and local government, because of the benefits we enjoy from being the state capital. I could not disagree more. While there certainly are perks, I have had the pleasure of witnessing more perseverance and more resilience – with a focus on growing a diverse economy — than I could have ever imagined. Our Economic Development Council  takes creating jobs seriously. Our Chamber members take creating jobs seriously. There is no doubt that in a time when we need it the most, creating jobs — while protecting our quality of life  — remains our top priority.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have seen so much of our business community at work firsthand this year. And from what I have seen, I really believe the glass is half full and good days lie ahead.

What was the best thing that happened to your business this year?

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