As all economic development professionals understand, economic development by its very nature is a team sport requiring the collaboration and coordination between multiple
community partners. Here at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, we’re taking that concept to the next level and structurally marrying the greatest attributes within our Chamber organization itself with the core practices of economic development. Gone are the days of the solo practice of business attraction, retention and expansion and the art of growing our own companies. Today’s complex economic environment mandates that successful communities streamline an approach between these activities and public policy, communications and marketing, international activity, small business development, visioning, strategy and almost every initiative communities undertake for the health of their regional economy.
The Gainesville Chamber has initiated a six month pilot program which exemplifies this approach to better connect our regional industry sectors with the services and expertise the Chamber encompasses as we build this next generation economy. Approximately a year ago a fledgling group of manufacturers organized themselves as a regional entity known as AMANCF (Advanced Manufacturing Association of North Central Florida). Directed in its mission to connect the regional manufacturing sector this group, through assistance and mentoring by FloridaWorks, began structured meetings which encompassed visits and tours to regional companies as well as educational speakers – all with the goal of enhancing the regional presence of manufacturing. After a year of going it alone the Chamber was introduced to the AMANCF leadership and through a discussion concerning common goals and strategic direction, the Chamber and AMANCF agreed to undertake a six month pilot program where the Chamber would manage the organization and enhance their capabilities, offerings and participation for regional companies.
Drawing upon staff, programs and Chamber led initiatives the Gainesville Chamber and AMANCF are off to a good start. A “theme” for the pilot program was developed with a coordinated approach between the Chamber team and AMANCF board called “Innovations in Manufacturing.” For the first of three fall meetings scheduled by the Chamber, a program was put together which encompassed the innovative nature of today’s manufacturing sector. On the afternoon of September 11th, hosted most appropriately by the Cade Museum (whose mission is to inspire creative thinking, future inventors and early entrepreneurs so that communities flourish) in Gainesville, over 60 people attended the first pilot program event. The program included an outstanding presentation by Erik Sander, Director of the University of Florida Engineering Innovation Institute on the changing face of manufacturing and what its presence means to communities throughout the world. In addition, Chamber reports from public policy, communications and marketing, economic development, international business and workforce areas were provided. Special guests included Chelsi Henry, Northeast Florida Market Manager for the office of Financial Services with a message from Florida CFO, Jeff Atwater, voicing his support for the growth and future of Florida manufacturers. Finally, an overview of the Cade Museum itself and what it means to regional companies including manufacturing and their vision for the future by Richard Miles complemented the remarks provided by the 2013 AMANCF Chair, Brian Soucek, Human Resources Manager, SiVance LLC, a subsidiary of Milliken & Company. With media interest and continued outreach the Chamber believes the AMANCF pilot is on a good trajectory for success. The results should drive further job creation and investment in our regional manufacturing base.
This pilot program is a great example of the collaboration needed to grow regional industry sectors and the multidisciplinary approach which strong economic development programs require. As the Chamber moves forward with its economic development activities we look forward to addressing the needs of multiple industry sectors throughout our region with the same enhanced attention and opportunities. Shaping the future of our regional communities is a team sport and together we can grow our local businesses and build a stronger economy.
The Chamber agreed to work with AMANCF in the following key areas over the six month pilot time:
- Meeting Coordination and Organization
- Website Presence
- Advocacy for Relevant Public Policy Issues
- Economic Development Activities
- Business Development Opportunities
- Talent/Workforce Development Opportunities
- International Trade
- Regional Visioning/Planning