Activity in and by a local chamber of commerce can be a game changer for business success, but also a catalyst for community improvement.
There is little distinction these days between community and economic development. Both depend on people (population/movement, diversity, age, educational attainment, home ownership), local economic factors (current conditions, employment and wages, taxes, infrastructure and capital access) and quality of place (health care, housing, environment, location, culture and recreation).
A local chamber is at the intersection of all these factors. Chambers of commerce support innovation, a skilled and educated workforce, a positive community image and a good business climate. They help create stronger communities through economic development, local knowledge and enhancement of place, and by convening key players in community advancement.
A chamber with economic development in its mission, like the Greater Akron Chamber, is ready to partner with city and county leaders, civic innovators and others to effect change. In the Greater Akron region, with its history and culture of collaboration, this is so true.
Our chamber works with municipalities and leaders in a three-county region on everything from trade missions to education initiatives. The 20-year old, award winning “Akron USA” outreach with the city of Akron and others has led to more than 200 inbound and outbound trade missions and visitations, more than $125 million in first-time foreign direct investment and $200 million in additional business-retention investment.
We are seeing an appreciation that our region is both a safe and soft landing for companies looking to enter the North American marketplace.
Quality of place + economic development = quality of life
Throughout the U.S., small businesses comprise most chamber memberships. Small businesses are rooted in their communities, experiencing each day the local quality of life. This affects how businesses recruit and retain talented people, invest in the future and foster cultures of creativity and skill.
Every $1 invested in the work of the Greater Akron Chamber creates a $9 investment in the greater community through expanded economic development activity; support of educational initiatives such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning, and the Summit Education Initiative; promotion, recruitment and talent retention; leadership development; and more.
Convening leaders and change agents
Chambers of commerce bring people together to make things happen.
They are in a position to know everyone, engage everyone and make introductions. This is how creative place making occurs and healthy communities are built. Intercity visits are a great example. An intercity visit is a chamber-organized trip to another city by a diverse delegation from a city’s or region’s public, private and nonprofit sectors. The visitors discuss community issues with leaders from the host community.
Two visits organized by the Greater Akron Chamber — Milwaukee and Omaha — have immersed our people in new ideas, best practices, economic drivers, revitalized downtowns and more. They also enhanced the personal relationships of our regional delegates. Such dynamism is irreplaceable. It benefits everyone who cares about this area. ●
Daniel C. Colantone, CCE, is president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber.