Thursday, February 9, 2012

All About Community

I know – what a cheesy title for a column. But that is okay. Sometimes being a little cheesy and humbling ourselves for the greater good is not only appropriate but necessary. As I write this, I am fired up and oozing with community. I just witnessed over 150 of Greater Dalton’s finest community cheerleaders step out of their comfort zone and espouse all things community. Our cheerleaders included leaders from our major flooring companies, CPAs, elected officials, small business owners, etc.

In four different sessions, 30-50 of our community’s finest called their friends, their suppliers, their venders, etc. and asked those who were not Chamber members to let them sponsor their membership in our Chamber of Commerce. In a little over six hours, 210 new members joined the 791 current members enabling us to become a 1000 member Chamber.

So what you ask? No community is successful in the long-term without a successful business community and vibrant local economy. A community doesn’t necessarily have to have large corporations based in it to thrive, but it must have some level of commerce. We just happen to be blessed with an industry being based here. But even the leaders of our flooring industry will tell you that they cannot sustain our community by themselves.

As my new friend Jimmy Cusano from Your Chamber Connections would say, “think about it” in his most dramatic Italian accent. Every sustainable community needs banks, dry cleaners, law offices, physicians, a hospital, manufacturers, etc. We have all of these and more. And we have traditionally enjoyed 700-800 of these as members of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. And after this week, our cheerleaders have enabled us to grow to over 1000 members.

Jimmy, the “Intertrainer”, gave each group a rousing, energetic, and impassioned “pep talk” about the importance of having a successful Chamber of Commerce and the relationship between a strong Chamber and a strong community. You have heard from me numerous times why Chambers are so important. We are all about commerce – taking care of / retaining current businesses, assisting / enabling new businesses to start and succeed, advocating for our businesses in legislatively, and facilitating the development of leadership for our community. In other words, we are economic development, community development, and leadership development.

And now having 1000 members, our voice will be amazingly loud. We will be better able to market our great community to those who we want to know us. And we can influence the fulfillment of our needs better at the state capitol and our nation’s capitol. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times that we do not get back from Atlanta or Washington anything close to the money sent to both as taxes. It is time for us to flex a little more and get our fair share.

Although we have endured a very difficult economic downturn and some felt it worse than others, most businesses have survived. They have retooled and repositioned themselves for what is next. Your Chamber of Commerce is doing the same. We have to work smarter and do things differently in order to be successful. And being bigger is a major step forward in representing our community.

For those that were not a part of these last two days, I wish you could have been. I have never felt so emboldened about our future. To be in a room with 50+ people including those I knew and many I did not, and hear them on the phone espousing the work we do and more importantly “selling” our community. We are blessed to live in this great community. I did not say perfect - we have areas needing improvement. But at the end of the day, I would put us up against most communities.

Although hundreds are responsible for the tremendous success of our first ever membership event and deserve to be listed by name, I will simply and humbly say to each – Thank you! You have energized me beyond my wildest expectations. And your Chamber team will do everything in our power to exceed all expectations and be worthy of your voice of confidence.

God Bless Greater Dalton and the United States of America!

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