Throughout 2015, many of you have heard me speak to growth across the regional economy, the number of recruitment or retention projects the Chamber team is working, and related capital investment and job creation projections. You also have heard me reference the exponential impact I predict will happen once we begin in earnest to market our region as a globally competitive business destination. But in the background, another force has been growing as well—Chamber membership.
The all-time membership high since the Chamber’s 1924 inception is 1,425. Today, we have 1,398 members, about 150 more than we did at this time last year. Current data projections indicate we will surpass that number by the end of the year.
Why does this matter? Because, due in large part to collaborative, Chamber-led efforts to support and advance a strong business climate, talent pipeline and economy, Greater Gainesville is facing unprecedented opportunity. Our membership growth reflects business community awareness that we are helping to lead our region in the right direction.
In 2014 alone, the Chamber raised a $6 million business community investment in transforming greater Gainesville’s business climate, talent pipeline, global market presence and ultimately, its future. Our public policy efforts have spurred nearly 80 business climate-boosting recommendations approved by city and county officials, and more than $1 million in GRU ratepayer savings. We have launched the Alachua County Education Compact, an unprecedented regional alignment among business, education, government and community leaders personally committed to driving economic opportunity for students and businesses through education. Since 2012, the Chamber has announced more than 1,400 jobs, most with an average annual salary of about $65,000 and more than $400 million in capital investment.
These achievements reflect only a fraction of the impact stemming from Chamber-led initiatives and activities. In other words, we are no longer simply planning to change the game. We are changing it. Our strong and focused board leaders, and highly competent staff are tireless in their efforts to leverage existing opportunities to secure new and greater wins for the region. I see our membership growth as evidence that local businesses are taking notice of our impact, coming into the fold, and lending their talents and voices as Chamber members.
Upcoming additions to the Chamber staff team also will reflect the growth of Chamber-driven opportunities in our region, as will the results of internal efforts currently underway among the team to refresh our values, goals and work to better serve our members. We are working hard to be ready for major regional milestones coming this fall, which will include the 50th anniversary of Gatorade and groundbreaking of the Cade Museum. We also are forging ahead toward emergence on the global stage as a serious and competitive contender for business investment, growth and expansion as we continue to nurture new international relationships and observe businesses currently surveying our area. In coming months, you also will see local emergence of new Smart City opportunities, as well as innovative technologies and practices.
Stay tuned, and don’t blink. Or better yet, get involved. Our growing membership and team are leading regional impact and opportunity. We’re changing the game today. Come join the team.