08-03-11-fccc-logo.jpgIt’s been an interesting couple of weeks at the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. Most have read an article that appeared in the Sunday, June 24, edition of the Fayetteville Observer that criticizes the work of the Chamber’s Economic Development team and the business leaders who make up our volunteer leadership, as well as recent hirings that have taken place.

In the midst of all of this, it’s easy to get distracted from what the Chamber of Commerce does in our community. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain some of the recent complaints and to let you know what your Chamber actually does.

The Chamber essentially operates as two entities in one. Our Economic Development team is tasked with helping grow current businesses in the community, and also with helping attract new ones to the area. The Observer article focused mainly on what this team does, and what some officials feel they haven’t been doing.

Our other “entity” is the Chamber of Commerce itself. That team is tasked with helping cultivate a thriving business climate within our area, through advocacy, development, networking and a variety of other tasks. It’s not a simple explanation when answering the “What does the Chamber do?” question, as we do whatever it takes to help grow the environment in which our businesses succeed.

The Chamber staff (but, importantly, not the Economic Development staff) has been reduced in recent years, as part of belt-tightening and efficient business practice measures. You may have read about a handful of recent additions to the Chamber team and it’s understandable that you’d question how we could rationalize hiring several new people when we are saying times are tough. But in actuality, those six people really just replaced six others who have left the organization since April. Two of the six vacancies were brought by relocation to other communities. Three moved on to advance their careers. One position was eliminated in order to redirect our resources in support of our Program of Work.

None of these staff additions were frivolous, all are supported by the Chamber’s current operating budget, and none are reflected on the Economic Development side of the Chamber’s unifi ed effort. In short, the Chamber has learned to do more with less, just as many companies and not-for-profi ts have been forced to do.

Our Economic Development team is tasked with a huge effort. In fi nancially diffi cult times, this crew has been asked to help recruit businesses into our area. Each and every one of you has been impacted by the fi nancial downturn of the past several years, and it’s easy to understand how diffi cult Economic Development as a whole can be in that climate. In spite of these challenges, we’ve helped in efforts that have seen over 5,000 new jobs created in the last year.

And no, we can’t take all the credit for that by any stretch of the imagination. It’s the collective efforts of many groups coming together that make these situations possible. We didn’t have a direct hand in getting every new job in the area, but that’s not what our task at hand is. We’re tasked with helping to create an environment that makes it easier for any business to thrive here. Whether they’ve been drawn here by the Chamber of Commerce, military growth, or any other reason isn’t relevant. Our organization is thrilled any time we see job growth here, no matter who was responsible for it.

Without question, the Chamber can always do more. We know that, and we’re committed to it. Consider the state of the national and world economy – both factors far beyond our local control. Given the absolute bleeding of jobs in other communities, our economic climate is trending forward and in today’s environment, even holding your ground is pretty good. Our economy is actually growing.

If you get nothing else from this, know that your Chamber of Commerce is here for the businesses in our community. Our mission statement sums this up well. “We strive to improve quality of life by creating wealth, jobs and investment in our community.” We are committed to that mission
wholeheartedly and look forward to continued success ahead.

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