I am convinced that the team at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce collectively has the greatest job in the world. We have the daily privilege of powering an organization that supports the smartest, most innovative businesses in our state and, I would argue, the world. In the course of doing so, we get to talk to Chamber member businesses — of which 80 percent are small — and hear all about the latest and greatest of what is working well for them as well as the challenges that keep them up at night. Anecdotally, I would place marketing at the top of both the list of challenges they convey as well as the list of reasons they chose to join the chamber.Sometimes, members’ anecdotes end with one of multiple iterations of three questions: Is membership worth the time and effort? Will engaging with the chamber and the business community garner more exposure for my company? Can I get involved in regional growth in a meaningful way without neglecting my business?
On all counts, my answer is yes, and here is why: The chamber is executing a global — and measurable — strategy to transform Greater Gainesville into a region of unprecedented opportunity for people and businesses. By 2020, the strategy aims to create 3,500 new primary jobs, $218 million in new primary salaries, $250 million in capital investment and more than $1 billion in regional investment.
In other words, as you work each day to increase your business’s market share, the chamber is working tirelessly – through comprehensive efforts in economic development, public policy, workforce development and more — to prime and grow the market available to you within the region and across the globe. Our strong track record of success includes, among other achievements, more than 1,400 new jobs and over $400 million in new capital investment announced since 2012 as well as approval from city and county officials for nearly 80 business climate-strengthening recommendations over 2014 and 2015.
All of these wins translate to greater opportunities for Greater Gainesville businesses of all sizes. And, though our strategy includes leveraging these and other wins, it primarily seeks to address Greater Gainesville’s most significant barrier to growth: anonymity.
Consider: Greater Gainesville is rich in assets, including the state’s preeminent university, the nation’s No. 1 community college and Florida’s most educated workforce. We boast a business and career friendly climate that also offers families an unmatched quality of life. We are within a mere couple of hours of beaches, major airports, seaports and tourist attractions.
However, just as your business competes with other businesses, Greater Gainesville is competing with other, better-known regions. It doesn’t matter what we have to offer if the rest of the world doesn’t know who we are.
The Transforming Greater Gainesville economic development strategy is tackling this problem through a strategic three-year branding and marketing initiative. Through research over the next several months, we will narrow the spectrum of marketable assets to those that make living and doing business in Greater Gainesville a uniquely positive and beneficial experience for companies. We have begun our research efforts and will report out on the findings before the end of the year. At the time this article was written, we had gathered in-person perspectives from over 50 Greater Gainesville leaders and distributed electronic surveys to thousands of additional stakeholders. The insights we gather via these efforts will inform the Greater Gainesville brand we roll out to business leaders, site selectors and capital investors across the globe in spring 2016.
Our legacy of innovation, current research efforts and stellar regional assets position Greater Gainesville to make a strong global showing next year. Your business is a part of the Greater Gainesville story that we are preparing to tell the world. As we approach this critical time of emergence, with such high stakes for every business and individual in the region, I would assert that none among us can afford not to engage. There is a place at the table for you. Come join us as we prepare to make our global debut.