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Greater Gainesville Chamber Aims to Move Needle in Economic Development, Public Policy and Talent and Education

Greater Gainesville Chamber Aims to Move Needle in Economic Development, Public Policy and Talent and Education

At the annual meeting of the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, incoming Chair Bryan Harrington set a strong agenda for the year ahead.

“All of the Chamber’s efforts are designed to support economic development and opportunity,” said Harrington, who chaired the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee in 2018. “It is my hope that our collective achievements in recruiting, retaining and expanding business will overwhelm even the most optimistic among us.”

Before Harrington spoke, outgoing Chair Kevin Monroe reviewed 2018 accomplishments, including successful passage of the half-cent sales tax for upgrading school facilities. The Chamber board was the first organization to support the referendum following completion of the yearlong i3 (Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative).

Monroe noted signs that the region is experiencing economic transformation.

“The Chamber moved the needle in 2018, building on a 95-year history of supporting Greater Gainesville’s businesses and community at-large,” Monroe said. “The past year has been about bringing in past efforts to successful landings and setting the stage for future elevation of the Chamber and the community.”

He noted that the Chamber’s Intercity Leadership Exchange to Columbus, Ohio, helped local leaders learn about best practices from the public and private partners who transformed the Columbus economy.

Hiring Eric Godet

A key 2018 development was that the Chamber board hired Eric Godet Sr. as the organization’s permanent president and CEO. Godet chaired the Chamber board in 2010 and its Public Policy Committee in 2018 before joining the executive staff.

During his remarks, Godet summarized the Chamber’s history, focusing on achievements over the past five years, as well as foreshadowing those he hopes to see come to fruition as the Chamber approaches its centennial. Chief among those aspirations is addressing racial inequity.

“The vision our founders had nearly 100 years ago of a dynamic, healthy, growing community is manifesting across many areas, and in the last five years, the Chamber has continued to be a leading regional partner in catalyzing change,” Godet said. “Addressing racial inequity meaningfully and strategically will be a strong area of focus at the Chamber as we work to continue our dynamic legacy.” 

Chamber Goals for 2019

  • Increasing membership growth and engagement
  • Being proactive and collaborative in developing public policies
  • Enhancing partnerships to strengthen the Alachua County Education Compact
  • Scoring economic development wins

Chamber Award Winners

At its annual meeting, the Chamber recognized local leaders and trailblazers.

Citizen of the Year Award – Brian Scarborough, for leading both the i3 (Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative) that resulted in the Chamber board being the first supporter of the Half Cent for Schools Sales Surtax, as well as the campaign to ensure the initiative’s success on the ballot.

See Also

Chairman’s Award – Dr. Theresa Beachy, executive director, Peaceful Paths Domestic Violence Network, for being a driving force behind Peaceful Paths’ expansion into a certified domestic violence network of services.

President’s Award – Dorothy Benson and Dorothy Thomas, for spearheading the overwhelmingly successful Children’s Trust ballot initiative in 2018 to expand services available to children from birth through 18.

Spirit of Greater Gainesville Award – Abijah Bertrand, Founder, Life Transition Skills LLC, for working to align the talent and self-sufficiency of young adults
with disabilities with the needs of the business community.

Chamber Diplomat of the Year – Steve Burroughs, Crime Prevention Security Systems, for going above and beyond as a member of the Chamber Diplomats, a 40-member group that serves as an extension of the Chamber’s staff.

Rotary Ethics in Business Award – Davis Rembert, business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist, presented by Dr. Claudio P. Spiguel, professor of ethics and professionalism in the Institute of Leadership and Innovation at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida. Rembert is a Gainesville native. He is the founder of several companies, beginning with United Fuel Corp. His philanthropy includes gifts to Haven Hospice and the University of Florida Cancer Hospital.

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