THE GREATER GAINESVILLE CHAMBER
Collaborate. Convene. Community.
Greater Gainesville is a community dedicated to identifying and solving problems. From our world-class institutes of higher education to our national and home-grown nonprofit organizations to our entrepreneurial and research culture, we work together in big and small ways to make our world a better place.
The Greater Gainesville Chamber—like the rest of our region— has evolved tremendously over its 100+ years serving as our voice of business. Today, the Chamber is best described as a convener, bringing together not only our small and large businesses, but also our educators, our entrepreneurs, our social-service providers and our policymakers, all with one vision. As documented in its five-year strategic plan, Collaborate 2025, the Chamber is devoted to creating a stronger region and a better life, together.
“The Chamber gives me the opportunity to expand my network and impact my community while growing my business. I see about 18 percent of my business stemming from a connection made at a chamber-related function on an annual basis.” -RANDY PERSAD NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL
Quality of life is rooted in economic opportunity and mobility. The goals within the Chamber’s Collaborate 2025 strategic plan are designed to work together to strengthen Greater Gainesville by fostering diverse, wellpaying and upwardly mobile opportunities for every member of our community at all levels of education. Equalizing opportunity is the unifying theme, as reflected by the plan’s three goals:
Promote economic growth and diversification to create quality jobs for residents of all skill levels.
Develop, retain and attract educated and skilled individuals to build and sustain a world-class workforce.
Create a more vibrant, attractive and livable community for all current and future residents.
Of course, there can be no collaboration without participation. The challenges faced by us all in 2020 highlighted as never before the need to work together, and bringing people together is what the Chamber does best.
Chamber initiatives delivered much needed information, served those most in need and started difficult, but crucial, conversations. For example, FEED GNV, convened by the Chamber with the City of Gainesville and GRACE Marketplace, provided funds for local restaurants to prepare grab-and-go meals for GRACE residents. The benefit was two-fold: our most vulnerable residents were provided daily meals, and our restaurants received badly needed economic support during the height of the pandemic shutdown. Over the life of the program, more than 4,800 meals were delivered by 40 of our businesses.
And, the Chamber’s complementary social media group, EAT GNV, gave local restauranteurs visibility and the ability to quickly inform the community about their availability, hours and offerings during rapidly changing times. EAT GNV boasts 10,000 members, and continues to grow.
Similarly, PROPEL GNV was developed to connect employers with employees, in a time when traditional job fairs and networking events are paused. Job postings are augmented by “Now Hiring” video events, and an active Facebook group allows for greater reach and a nimble platform.
As a community convener, the Chamber is also dedicated to encouraging conversations that tackle difficult issues while looking for the things that unite us. Crossroads: Exploring Intersections of Race and Business is a series of such conversations, held virtually, among local employers, subject-matter experts and community members. Taking full advantage of technology, these discussions allow people to say what’s truly on their minds, in a safe space. Crossroads conversations, with more than 200 participants, have so far addressed systemic racism in the workplace, overcoming barriers to diversity and building a more inclusive office.
“Being a startup, sometimes it’s easy to get lost. The Chamber connects us with mentors and a great professional peer group.” -ISAAC HETZRONI IMPRINT GENIUS
“Our local Chamber rocks! Between the public policy work and the reaching out to local businesses, we have an incredibly active Chamber.” -STEVE JEPPSON FLORIDA CREDIT UNION
The Greater Gainesville Chamber is a five-star accredited membership organization, with 1,300 member businesses that employ more than 80,000 people across our region. Though many view Chambers as primarily networking organizations—a role the Greater Gainesville Chamber enthusiastically embraces with high-quality events and conferences—our Chamber does so much more. The Chamber’s lines of business— Membership, Economic Development, Talent and Education and Public Policy— allow it to educate and advocate for every member of our community.
The Chamber’s Infrastructure Investment Initiative, known as i3, was an outstanding example of this community-focus. How to best address our aging infrastructure had become a frustrating and divisive conversation in our community, so beginning in 2016, the Chamber embarked on a significant research project. A diverse steering committee held 18 meetings with public officials, convened three public input meetings and hosted four community presentations to identify our infrastructure priorities and determine how to best fund those.
The result was clear: our aging schools were our highest priority, and a half-cent infrastructure sales tax was our best funding option. An ensuing education campaign about the fall 2018 ballot initiative helped it pass with a resounding 68% of the vote.
Driving around our county today, our community can see their dollars at work on a wide variety of school construction projects, including the significant renovations underway at Metcalfe Elementary School and Howard Bishop Middle School. Other recent Chamber collaborations have focused on zero waste, affordable housing, career and technical education and equity.
When you join the Greater Gainesville Chamber, you join a group of people devoted to creating a stronger region, together.