“The Path to Engagement”

The hardest part about community involvement is often knowing where to start. That’s why in 2006, the Chamber created Access Tallahassee – a program designed for young professionals. Access is a pathway to engagement and an important part of the Chamber’s broader work in shaping our shared future. Access Tallahassee has evolved to also be a program for those looking to find an opportunity to get involved in bettering the place we all call home. For many, Access is a first step towards being a true community stakeholder and an opportunity to put some skin in the game. In a time, which the world is changing fast, Tallahassee needs this next generation more than ever.

Our community is at an inflection point. That means that a rapid amount of change has occurred during a short span of time. As a we stand on the verge of a new decade, Tallahassee will continue to be faced with questions about how we grow and what kind of community we should be. It’s also critically important to understand the opportunities present as Tallahassee and Leon County approach our community bicentennial in 2024. Access Tallahassee is a program tailored for those who want to be part of a new generation of local leaders who can help steer where we go next.

This week, a well-rounded contingency of Access members gathered at the Challenger Learning Center to talk about the role our Downtown can play in improving our community trajectory. The discussion was part of our YP Roundtable series that occurs throughout the year. Thanks to the leadership of Access Chair Amanda Morrison and staff support from Katie Orr, programs like this continue to be great opportunities for members to advance their community engagement. At this installment, those in attendance heard from Elizabeth Emmanuel, CEO of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority.

Emmanuel has been at the helm of the TDIA for less than a year and is already making great strides towards changing how the community thinks of our Downtown. Obviously, the Capitol comes to mind, but Downtown is so much more than that! As part of her talk with Access members, Emmanuel shared her vision for how the area can serve as a showcase for what Tallahassee does best while also helping to attract talent to our community. She is a part of that next generation.

It is no surprise to our Chamber team that Emmanuel has done so well in her new role. Previously, she served alongside us as an integral part of the Leadership Tallahassee staff. She has brought the same energy and excitement that she displayed at LT to the TDIA and has emerged as a real champion for Downtown and its many possibilities. Among her many attributes, she has a real knack for engaging audiences and tapping bright minds for good ideas. At this week’s Access YP Roundtable, Emmanuel was able to offer a room full of passionate future leaders an opportunity to share their thoughts about the future of Downtown all while discovering new things to focus on next.

When asked for opinions, our Access members are certainly not shy. Those who chose to carve out time in their schedule to attend events like the YP Roundtables usually come with a desire to learn and an intent to engage. That was evident as Emmanuel opened the floor for questions.

One of the most frequent questions from both the audience and many others the Chamber brings together is “What can we do to help?” That question is indicative of the spirit that lives in so many emerging leaders in our community today. There are many people who chose to spend their time trying to defeat things, stop progress, or just halt the evolution of Tallahassee, but not this bunch. They want to see Tallahassee flourish and they are looking for ways to help.

That means that those currently in leadership roles need to work diligently to create meaningful ways for the next generation to bring value to the community. Imagine what could be done with our upcoming community bicentennial if we can create an organized, strategic and thoughtful process for the future leaders of Tallahassee to not only share their thoughts but help make some big things happen. In today’s world, where talent retention and attraction are such important parts of creating economic success in a community, one of the most important metrics that professionals are looking for is meaningful engagement. Here in Tallahassee, we must create mechanisms that increase those opportunities or risk losing those who want to help build something special to other cities that will let them do it.

We’ve got some strong building blocks here and if we can pay close attention to how we let the next generation work with them, then we might just have a breakout moment. In the coming decade there will be major milestones and achievements for Tallahassee and Leon County and the best way to maximize their impact on our future may just be to turn the ideas of a hungry, positive and motivated generation who want to make a difference. That is the spirit of the Chamber’s Access Tallahassee program and every time we turn on the lights for an event with those leaders, we see the incredible potential for our community. The next great challenge will be showing them where their pathway to engagement truly leads.

Jay Revell
Vice President, Advocacy & Public Policy