As 2017 came to a close, we, at the Gainesville Area Chamber, began working on our strategy and outreach for 2018. Quickly, we realized that to do our region justice we would have to rethink many of the descriptions, pictures and ideas we used in 2017 to describe our landscape, business community and entire area. Just as our region had changed, so had our organization’s staff, outreach efforts and practices making the “Rethink” mantra even more relevant to our own team.
Throughout 2017 our business community saw some great accomplishments, but none so important to our vision, mission and membership as the strong engagement our business leadership made in “undertaking the work of our community” across almost every front.
Our 2017 Chair, Rory Causseaux of CHW, our Chair –Elect, Kevin Monroe of Cox Communications and our Vice-Chair Elect, Bryan Harrington of Trimark Properties, led our board in further enhancing and clarifying the operational models needed to encompass a growing membership and business community. The chamber board saw almost 400 business leaders directly engaged in approximately 20 different councils and groups throughout 2017. These leaders worked on multiple issues and initiatives that facilitated economic opportunities, business growth and community progress throughout Alachua County and beyond.
Countless examples of our business leadership in action were noted. Members like Brian Scarborough led a team of business executives in researching the infrastructure needs in key areas such as the Alachua County public school facilities, roads and transportation as well as parks and emergency communication tools for our first responders. After an intense nine month period, the team published its findings and recommended we first support the Alachua County School Board’s sales tax initiative which will be placed on the November ballot. Leaders like Brian and his team know that the key to our future is our children. It was appropriate that this i3 initiative was entitled, “Putting Children First.”
In addition, multiple business leaders participated in two key “Affordability Summits,” shedding critical light on the increasing costs of living and doing business in Alachua County, searching all the while for best practices and solutions to keep our region affordable. Over 200 regional attendees participated in the two summits led by an outstanding group of business leaders.
The “Transforming Greater Gainesville” economic development initiative saw 19 new investors jump on board as projects encompassing investments in the clean technology, life sciences and software sectors throughout Alachua County. Innovation Square, Tower Road, Celebration Pointe, Butler Plaza, 13th Street, South Main Street, the new Cade Museum, GTech and many other infrastructure and new investments were visible throughout the entire year, bringing great excitement and promise to the area.
The chamber cut ribbons on new medical infrastructure for North Florida Regional Medical Center and participated with UF Health’s announcements on new research facilities bringing even greater opportunities for medical research, health care and the life science industry throughout this region.
At the end of the year the greater Gainesville region was privileged to host almost 50 international innovation and research dignitaries through the Department of Commerce’s ACE 8 Tour and showcase the growing international community that comprises approximately 10 percent of our population. With international opportunities increasing through economic development projects, increased medical tourism and foreign direct investment, it’s definitely a strong part of our 2018 strategy.
Overall, I barely scratched the surface and you’ll likely identify many other initiatives, activities and accomplishments that aren’t highlighted here. As I mentioned earlier, it’s time to rethink who we are and how we function within our community; moving forward so the opportunities we’re seeing make their way to everyone who lives, works and plays in Alachua County.
Are you ready to rethink business and life in Greater Gainesville? As the Chamber has brought on new staff and team members in marketing and communications, economic development, membership and sales with several more to come, here’s our suggestions on where to begin your 2018 study in “Rethinking” Greater Gainesville. What can you do?
Susan Davenport, President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce