Chamber News

Economic growth more than brick and mortar
Chairman's Message - February 2016 (excerpt from Dan's inaugural speech)
Published: Sunday, February 7, 2016
By: Dan Westhues

This is not my first time sitting on the Chamber Board.  My first run was in the early 2000’s right before we hired Randy.  Like today, it was a strong Chamber, but my experience back then was very different. 

Everything I was involved in was centered on traditional Chamber activities - basically networking!  It was a great experience, and when I look back, it was exactly what I needed at the time.  My membership is one my greatest tools for living and working in this community.

Now, 12 years later, I am experiencing a different side of our Chamber – facilitating economic development.  Though I always knew that the Chamber played this role, I don’t think I really understood the amount and type of work that was going on. 

We tend to measure success by the erection of a new pylon with a new business’s name on it.  While I agree that this is definitely a sign of success, I also understand that there is much more to long-term growth of a community.  And this Chamber gets it!

At our November Board Retreat, we discussed at length our plan for economic growth. Of course we all want job-creating businesses, but to do that, we must simultaneously be addressing other issues. 

The retreat was focused on completing our 2016 plan which was approved by both the City and County. The work plan is on the Chamber’s website and I encourage you to read it, because quite frankly, it gets me fired up!

Now, it’s just an outline, but it shows the wide breadth of projects being worked on from riverfront access and sports tourism, Work Ready Community certification and conducting a workforce study, to specific initiatives with Lincoln University and our school districts through a P-20 Council.  All of this and more is on our work plan just for 2016! All are meaningful and have the potential to greatly impact our community. The Chamber will take the lead in some projects, while in others we simply play the role of facilitator.

During my tenure as chairman, I will focus on using the work plan to help move the needle in all areas and help people understand that it is more than just new brick and mortar that drive economic growth.

For those of you who know me, you know I always want to do something big!  I was asked earlier this week “Well what is it?  What is your one big goal?”  

There is something I am particularly excited about.  If you read the plan, you will see an undescribed project under Business Attraction -   Project Alpha. Last year, Randy came to us with an idea.  Not an idea to expand a business, not a request from a manufacturer looking for land.  It was something new - “creation”.   Randy said “Let’s create something entirely from scratch that utilizes our assets and capitalizes on an untapped market.”  Something that creates jobs, brings people to Jefferson City, and keeps us relevant for years to come. 

Now, we are in the early phases of this project so it is not quite ready to be communicated.  I share it with you today because I want you to be as proud of our Chamber as I am.  Innovative ideas like this project are exactly what we need. 

Consider this.  At 211 degrees, water is hot.  At 212 degrees, it boils.  With boiling water comes steam, and steam can power a locomotive.  Raising the temperature of water by one extra degree means the difference between something that’s simply hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine.  Innovation can be that one degree, and I see that potential in Project Alpha. 

I am excited to lead the Chamber in 2016.  I am excited about our plan.

To our Chamber members, I say “Thank you.”  Thank you for your support and partnership which makes our work possible.  If you’re not a current member of the Chamber, we invite you to join us in our mission of growing our local economy and improving our quality of life. Working together as a Chamber, in harmony with the City and County, we can accomplish a great deal.

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