New Decade Brings Opportunities for Chambers to Invest in, Focus on Community Transformation

As we close out the W.A.C.E. year and start a new decade, it’s a good time to reflect on the past and set our minds on the challenges (read: opportunities) that lie ahead. The last decade has included the Great Recession, followed by one of the longest recoveries in history, along with a deeply divided America and daily economic disruption. From technological advances to new consumer habits, the way businesses work, as well as the nature of membership, have changed. Looking ahead to 2020, it’s time for chambers of commerce to modernize the value proposition we offer to our member businesses and our communities.

Modernizing Our Value Proposition

Historically, chambers have been known primarily for transactional activities, such as networking and lead generation. While those activities still play a role in what chambers do, they are no longer the primary services you should offer to your members.

To remain valuable to our members and our communities, we must evolve to meet the needs of businesses and to serve as a convener of business, government and communities.

In the new decade, we need to shift the value proposition of being a chamber member from purely transactional to being focused on community transformation.

As community leaders, chambers have the opportunity to serve as catalysts for innovation and change, conveners of communities and champions for business at every level.

By harnessing our natural role as a trusted community voice, chambers have the power to enact true transformative change that charts new pathways for economic prosperity.

In my community, we’ve been able to garner the collective support of a diverse range of our businesses to launch key initiatives to help strengthen local talent pipelines. A key example of this is Build Your Future Arizona, which is a multi-layered approach to strengthen Arizona’s construction workforce pipeline.

Taking the lead on a multiyear career awareness campaign isn’t a traditional chamber role, but it’s a prime example of a new, innovative way in which a chamber can support business expansion.

Collaborating to Increase Regional Prosperity

During my tenure at the chamber and through my participation in W.A.C.E., I’ve learned a lot. But perhaps the most important lesson is that we aren’t competitors—we’re collaborators who can build strong and economically prosperous communities.

I’ve seen the value of fostering open dialogue with our peers to build bridges where and when they are needed in our community, regardless of city or chamber boundary lines.

By working together, we are a strong advocate for all businesses, and we are a larger voice for small business and next-generation leadership development.

Over the course of the next few months, I encourage you to evaluate how and where your chamber is investing in your community and how you can be a leader to resolve key challenges hindering business growth in your area. Whether you represent a major metropolis or a small town, your chamber is sure to grow as you position your organization as a true champion for economic prosperity.

As my time as the W.A.C.E. Chairman comes to a close, I would like to congratulate you on a job well done and encourage you to invest in your chamber and your team by engaging with W.A.C.E. to develop the tools you need to transform your chamber and your communities.

Todd Sanders is the president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix (AZ) Chamber and outgoing chairman of the board of W.A.C.E.