Execs Keep Positive, But Realistic Outlook for Leading Communities to Post-COVID Success

What is your outlook for 2022? Will it be the best of times, the worst of times, or maybe BOTH as Charles Dickens said in “Tale of Two Cities”?

Whitney Diver-McEvoy
Yountville (CA) Chamber

My gut says it will be closer to the best of times, with chambers continuing to be the voice of reason and problem solvers in their communities. Chambers will need to lean into being at the intersection of helping businesses succeed and our community thrive. Doing both is essential.

John Brewer
Billings (MT) Chamber

For us it is the best of times. Revenue and support (via Net Promoter Score) are at an all-time high.

We grew from relevant to essential helping our 8,500 community businesses (not just chamber members) survive the shutdown

We are focused on talent attraction and retention NOW…as well as long-range workforce development strategies. Systematic changes to higher education and worker training needs in general are the long game. Employers need people now.

We have listened to our members and filled their needs in growing their workforce via diversity and inclusion training, leadership and young professionals programs.

We have proven our value and essentialness by taking hard positions on candidate endorsements (three of our three endorsed candidates were elected) and community initiatives (like leading the Public Safety Levy…YES INCREASING TAXES!). By the way, the initiatives led by the chamber passed by 59%.

Bottom line, if a chamber is listening to their members, acting swiftly and not afraid to take risk I believe they are thriving now. Communities are looking for stable, sane center voices to lead business and community. As elected representatives are frequently dividing, we are bringing people together to solve problems.

Tallia Hart
Healdsburg (CA) Chamber & Visitors Bureau

Best of times! Business has been through so much and feels confident in navigating and taking action differently than before. Also, it’s engaged more people to take action on local ordinances and speak out on public policy matters such as parklets.

Jill Lagan, ACE
Boulder City (NV) Chamber

As I closed out last year with the beginning of the holidays, I felt defeated and deflated. Felt as though all our work and effort just wasn’t ever enough. However, after a rejuvenating break with family, I have a new perspective.

What once was a big loss with an employee quitting, is now a new opportunity for an org chart overhaul. What once was overwhelming with adding an additional corporation to our purview, is now a healthy budget increase. What once was frustration from our investors feeling pandemic fatigue has turned into a recent energizing of our business core once we published the very positive stats on the economic health of our community.

The CEO’s perspective is critical in building up the energy in our communities to stay the course and come out the other side stronger. I am enthusiastic to report I see a vibrant year ahead. The smile on my face as I walk into work each morning truly reflects that newfound excitement and radiates to everyone I come into contact with. It has been inspiring to watch.

Pam Ridler, CCE
Castle Rock (CO) Chamber

We all know this job is not for those with a weak disposition. Is it the best of times or the worst of times? In my opinion, it may have seemed to be the worst of times as a chamber CEO trying to keep our heads above water financially, managing our leadership volunteers and our staff.

However, I believe that we have shown our value more than ever to our communities. Did we change our focus? Yes, which may have needed to happen and due to the pandemic forced our hand to make changes internally and demonstrate to the public to be more intentional on what our chambers are and can be.

I know the last two years has helped me move the needle on projects and initiatives that always seemed to be put on the back burner, but now we successfully concluded our first Total Resource Campaign and created a 501(c)(4) organization to move our business advocacy efforts to the forefront, which in my opinion proves that extreme times cause people to follow you as long as you are willing to lead.

For many years we have stated that we need to be at the table and part of the conversation to lead our business community in creating better solutions. Make sure that your chamber is the Catalyst, the Convenor and the Champion on tough issues in 2022 and beyond, and the financial support or your organization will follow.

Sarah Watts, IOM
Gilbert (AZ) Chamber

I think it depends on the individual mindset. It will continue to be a time of change, of demonstrating value, and of responding to the varying and sometimes unpredictable needs of our business community. If could be the best of times if you are willing to continue to embrace the fluidity of programming and resources which will be required to deliver value.

If you are working hard to find “normalcy” or get back to “the way things were,” you’re setting yourself up for a year of disappointment. Now is the time to try new things and see what sticks.

Make the best of your opportunities to monetize, even if it is a one-off, value-added experience that doesn’t stand a chance of making it in next year’s business plan. And build your board with individuals who share your vision to chase opportunity rather than watching it pass you by.

Rodney Fong
San Francisco (CA) Chamber

“A Tale of Two Cities” is even more true of San Francisco right now.

On one level, record venture capital investments into San Francisco companies over the past year, SF remains the intellectual capital of the world — life sciences, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles (AV) — all being created to change the globe as we speak.

On another level, unthinkable poverty. Drug sales and massive addiction rate and deaths, criminal behavior, political agendas no longer fitting for a small city.

It’s complex and uncertain in a less-than-ever perfect city; but it’s also a realistic dose of life. It’s not all equal and fair, unfortunately around the world.

Sherry Taylor
Mason Deerfield (OH) Chamber

2022 will be a year where it will be critical to be positive and realistic. To be optimistic and cautious. To be disciplined and agile. To anchor what is working well as we seek even small bouts of consistency and fully let go of baggage.

Occupying the sane center is difficult and exciting, and comes with the liberating and the tiring, but that important role we play will lead to the best of times the more we can bring people to it.

We are trusted and respected at the highest level I have seen in my 11 years in the business. I believe we can play this role better than anyone and the best is yet to come.

Nancy Lindholm, ACE
West Ventura County (CA) Business Alliance

I will have to go with BOTH. I think the BEST will be all of us learning to live with whatever variation of COVID might be circulating in our communities. However, I’m a bit concerned about how inflation will impact businesses’ bottom lines.

Kelly Hall, IOM, CCE, MSL
Longview (TX) Chamber

With the rise of COVID cases, my emotions have been all over the place. Let’s face it — I’m sick of this! It is NOT the way I wanted to start the new year. I’m tired of the pain COVID causes from the workplace, to the home, to our community.

For me, positive self-talk is critical during these roller coaster periods. Therefore, I choose to reflect on understanding my purpose. The four lessons I’ve learned are:

• Don’t lose my identity with my job.

• Keep strong support groups around me: family, friends, peers. Even my personal board of directors.

• Work on my spiritual fitness and don’t get stuck in the yuk. I am so glad I remind myself getting older doesn’t mean I’m getting more mature or even wiser. This way of thinking keeps me learning, developing and sharpening my abilities!

• Use my gifts, talents and treasures to help others. Be externally focused and make a contribution. I am also glad that I finally realize inner joy isn’t from status, salary, or even success. Inner peace and joy come from service!

Hey, I believe we all crave significance. So, how about joining me to stay focused on what is important — where are we making unselfish contributions?

If you’d like to visit more, I would be happy to share my personal experience about finding peace, hope and joy.

Brad Hicks, CCE, IOM
W.A.C.E. Lifetime Member

When the “experts” are calling for everything from “slim changes” to a “deep correction” … who really knows?

The one thing I think we do know is that we’ll continue to see the rise of everything. Labor and material shortages are going to continue to plague our members and their consumers. That said, it was in crisis that chambers were born…and it should always be in crisis that chambers lead and thrive. However, they must be willing to do the work.

Chambers will no longer have the luxury of sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to things like advocacy and political action. The future is here and all the stuff many chambers thought they might do someday has gone from wish list to mission critical.

Chambers have to be the catalyst for change to remain relevant. If a chamber’s mission is really to defend free enterprise, and people running for office want to crush or distort free enterprise, then chambers have two options in my opinion:

• Fight.

• Get out of the way and stop siphoning off resources from other organizations that are willing to fight the fight.

That sounds like BOTH to me.

Eli Matthews, IOM
The Chamber of Medford & Jackson County (OR)

It’s what we make it. Best of Times!