Chairman of the Board, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce
The dictionary defines opportunity as “a good position, chance or prospect, as for advancement or success.” Greater Gainesville defines opportunity as talent plus innovation. So let me explain from my personal perspective, as well as from the perspective of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
I found Gainesville through the University of Florida and made Gainesville my home through family, friends and community engagement. I found myself at a crossroads in life in 1988. I had graduated from UF, been employed locally for four years, had married a Gainesville native and had obtained licensure as a Professional Engineer. That licensure afforded me an opportunity for higher employment or a business opportunity. Well, the business opportunity happened in Gainesville, and together with the other listed local connections, exceeded opportunities in other communities. My investment in a start-from-scratch business venture sealed the commitment to Gainesville and began what is to date a 29-year career that has blessed my life, my family’s life and the lives of the families employed at Engineering, Florida – Causseaux, Hewett, & Walpole, Inc.
My business is based on “engineering,” but it is so much more. My opportunity for business has created deep, broad and lasting relationships with clients, peers and the community. I’ve had the pleasure to see and learn the Gainesville area from a perspective few ever get the chance to experience. I am fortunate to have the lens I have by which to view our community. A small business requires hard work, faith, commitment and perseverance. However, I found early on it is not just about me, far from it. A small business is a community effort. Talented employees, local clientele, hospitable peers, experienced mentors and friends and community support is what makes a small business opportunity turn into an experience of a lifetime. Therefore, it’s only natural for an invested resident and small business owner to find ways to richly invest in the community you live, work and play. After all, it is the community that makes the business stronger and it is the business that makes the community stronger. Collectively we can have much more of a positive impact than we can individually. That’s the very reason I joined the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and am engaged to do my very best to participate at a level of commitment worthy of the mission of the organization as it benefits every aspect of our community. The chamber offers opportunity for all businesses to join together to find the right and proper balance and prioritization of the needs of our community and its residents and to undertake initiatives to get them done.
I look forward and am privileged to lead the chamber in 2017 as chairman of the board, and hope all businesses will join to deepen, broaden and sustain opportunity for all of the Greater Gainesville residents.
The chamber fosters and promotes opportunities for any and all willing to invest, learn and apply. The foundation of the chamber, its “vision and mission,” embodies purpose and opportunity:
- MISSION: Make the Gainesville region a global hub for talent, innovation and opportunity.
- VISION: Through leadership and collaboration, facilitate economic prosperity, business growth and community progress.
The 2016 version of the chamber represents a collection of 1,200 member businesses, not-for-profits, institutions and organizations that collectively represent 80,000 people. What’s key here is that while the chamber is about business opportunity, it really serves people. Not just people as a whole, but individual persons. The persons are just as diverse as the businesses and organizations that make up today’s chamber. Collectively, these persons contribute to the characteristics and success of the Greater Gainesville community. The chamber is organized with four lines of businesses: chamber operations, economic development, public policy and workforce/talent.
Chamber operations offers member services and engagement opportunities from networking, “how-to” and “why” training, ribbon-cutting events, leadership training (Leadership Gainesville) and much, much more. Membership is important, as most are small businesses who need the collective voice of the chamber to facilitate the needed activities and opportunities that make a stronger ecosystem to ensure their success.
The Chamber together with the Council for Economic Outreach (CEO) promotes, markets, and facilitates economic development for the region. The most recent and current initiative is Transforming Greater Gainesville (TGG). TGG is a five-year (2015-2019), game-changing economic development plan supported by a six million dollar investment committed by local organizations with a goal of closing on a total of 50 projects, equaling 3,500 new primary jobs in five targeted industry clusters (advanced logistics, advanced materials, agricultural life sciences, human life sciences, and software/IT) for a total of $218 million in new primary salaries and $250 million in new capital investment, and achieve a total of $1 billion in regional investment projects and major infrastructure development. Innovation, which is in the DNA of Gainesville, is how we transform Greater Gainesville. When faced with a problem or an issue to solve, our area fosters an environment where a problem is solved innovatively, ultimately going beyond the solution to transform an entire industry.
Public policy has a purpose to promote a better business climate in the Greater Gainesville region by strengthening GACC public policy, grass roots and political engagement operations. The public policy has a well thought out nine-point plan from strategies and tactics to a political action committee to launch and manage issues. The PC is an important element of the nine-point plan, as it is the active tool with the ability to educate and communicate to the general public the priorities and issues that are important in our collective community and impact the interests of business, education, quality of life, talent and workforce.
Talent/workforce highlights one of Greater Gainesville’s strengths. Everyone claims their area has talent or a readied workforce when in reality, number of bodies does not equal talent nor a readied workforce. It’s why areas competing to land a company miss out, because within the due diligence it is revealed that number of bodies isn’t enough. The workforce needs to be prepared to produce within any given industry.
With a Top 15 in US Public Research University in our midst, who houses 16 college disciplines on one campus (less than six universities in the US can boast that fact), our population is one of the most educated in the state. With the No. 1 community college in the US, not only is Santa Fe College the top feeder school into UF, but also has degree programs and technical certification programs that prepare workforce for various industries. Santa Fe will also create programs to specifically address workforce training needs. (MindTree and the biotech industry are perfect examples.)
The chamber offers opportunity for all businesses to join together to find the right and proper balance and prioritization of the needs of our community and its residents, and to undertake initiatives to get them done. —Rory Causseaux
For adult training, our area boasts the best CareerSource organization in the state that not only helps with job training but has launched innovative programs that help out-of-work individuals begin businesses. These innovative programs are being taught statewide and across the country. Angela Pate, President and CEO of Focused Management Solutions, was recently appointed to the US Department of Labor’s Workforce Information Advisory Council because of her notable industry leadership. We also boast innovative ways of answering the readied workforce needs. The chamber and Duncan Kabinu launched the Gainesville Dev Academy which trains people specifically for a given job or industry need.
The chamber has addressed industry needs by creating councils, including the Tech and Advanced Manufacturing Councils. GAIN, a grassroots entrepreneur support organization, and Startup Hour are two organizations that are also discussing workforce needs. This all points to the quality of our workforce development organization.
Although our school system is dealing with a diverse cross-section of students, the magnet programs offered within our public school systems are recognized nationally and help address workforce needs. To better align student awareness to job opportunities and industry needs with education, a consortium of stakeholders led by the chamber launched the Alachua County Education Compact to further improve the success of the school-to-career or school-to-college-to-career pipelines. Grooming talent is something we do well and comprehensively.
The chamber defines opportunity as “talent + innovation = opportunity.” I place a call for all businesses to join — we’re stronger with one united voice. The chamber is the only entity committed to studious and rigorous study, publicizing facts and taking needed positions to promote our mission — all-in-one — because these three elements are all ultimately connected.
Together let’s make the Greater Gainesville area one of opportunity for those present and those sought and invited to join us.