Special Viewpoint
From President & CEO, Brad Hicks, The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
I suppose there’s nothing like a milestone birthday to cause one to take inventory of (hopefully) a life well lived and the ‘WHY’ of that life.  The same is true for organizations.  With The Chamber nearing it’s one hundredth year of ‘Helping Business Succeed!’ we have been actively taking stock and participating in the work to define the promise of chambers of commerce in the 21st century.  We want to ensure that your chamber will continue to be the voice of business for the next one hundred years!

The other dynamic, always in play...especially in business...is that change is always swirling things around.  Thankfully, in the case of our organization, members, Board and staff have a clear sense of purpose and direction and that is being even further refined by this work.  We also have a reputation to maintain!  To lead is to drive change and your Chamber is constantly looking for ways lead our community to prosperity.

I want to tell you a bit more about this branding effort, then I’ll share some exciting changes that we are currently implementing.

To jump start the important work of understanding the “brand pillars” of chambers of commerce, The Western Association of Chamber Executives (WACE) Board of Directors made the significant investment necessary to engage a true expert in brand definition, BrandBirth.  BrandBirth specializes in helping companies and, in this case, industries understand who they are.  There are many challenges present to answering the “Why” question for chambers, not the least of which is the truth to the old adage, “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber.”  Every local Chamber is ‘locally owned and operated by its own “shareholders” - members, Board and professional staff.  This means chambers, like the communities they represent, come in all shapes and sizes and will choose different paths in meeting the needs of their respective communities.

The good news here is the fact that, as we’ve learned over the years from the WACE Tool Kit surveys which provided us with solid existing data that established this baseline....there are simply things that all members want from all chambers.  While we are proud to know that our members have regularly told us that we’re doing what they want us to do.... and, even more rewarding... doing it well... we want to be certain that as times change and our members needs change, that we do more than keep up.... but, rather, lead the way in growing businesses and business leaders who will strengthen our regional community.

Through years of survey work, trial and error and countless meetings, members have been more helpful than I can describe - vital, really, to understanding not only what we should do, but how we should do it. I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you that we’ve boiled The Chamber’s brand purpose down to what we are calling the “Three C’s”. 

The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County exists to be:               
* The Catalyst for business growth               
* The Convener for leaders and influencers               
* And the Champion for a stronger community

We achieve our purpose everyday by delivering on the member-driven Strategic Objectives:                * Creating a Strong Local Economy (Catalyst)               
* Promoting The Community (Catalyst)               
* Providing Networking Opportunities (Convene)               
* Representing Business Issues - Lobbying/Political Action (Champion)

Around here, these are not fancy tag lines or catchy buzzwords, but very much who we are. Working together to solve the challenges our members encounter like addressing the damaging mega-fires and smoke choking our health and economy or fighting the equally damaging meals tax in Jacksonville.  Inspiring and connecting community leaders in support of business-friendly initiatives and candidates though the separate ChamberPAC, and seeking out and raising up the next generation of local leadership through signature programs like Leadership and the re-invigorated Young Professionals Network (YPN).

Now to some of the new and exciting programs and projects members have asked The Chamber to pursue on their behalf.  I already mentioned the Young Professionals, but I’ll add how excited I am about the group of young leaders that have emerged within our membership ranks.  Too much is said about what’s wrong with Millennials... I may have even chimed in myself from time to time! However, I am happy to tell you this group will make you forget everything you’ve heard about Millennials as they are ready to help The Chamber and ready to help this community grow.  

In an effort to re-claim the turf that belonged to chambers before the advent of Google, Facebook, etc., that is holding the position of being the hub of information in our region, we have a number of new initiatives that are already proving to be valuable resources to members and others that soon will be.

The award-winning Business Review, The Chamber’s monthly publication is now on its third issue after being converted to a fully digital, online, magazine.  Yes, the BR has been online for a number of years now...but is now, for the first time, a truly online digital publication.  We know members get their news primarily on their smart phones, tablets and other digital devices....and your Business Review needs to be right there alongside those other sources. This is an area our team is currently working hard to perfect, but the early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive! We have also been working with Chamber member sponsor BBSI to implement two exciting new programs on The Chamber’s website.  A new page dedicated to providing our community with answers to the most asked business resource questions,  "Resources for Business Success" will launch before the end of the year. Stay tuned as we roll out more details. The other program speaks directly to the heart of The Chamber’s goal to grow companies already located in our valley.  In short, this has been termed size up and that’s just what we called it....Size Up!  Size Up aims to give you valuable and otherwise expensive demographic data that you can use to better understand your competitors and this local market...in turn, giving you the tools to Size Up your business.   One of my favorite parts of Chamber work over the last 25 years has been getting “out on the street” if you will and seeing exactly what our members do and how they do it.  As my role as your President & CEO has evolved and The Chamber has grown to such a size - that once favorite part of chamber work has become increasingly difficult as well as now the role of other Chamber team members.....but I still miss seeing our members!  So, in addition to our “thank you” calls we make each and every month we’ve initiated something I am calling 12@12.  Why 12@12?  Some of the answers are obvious....it’s a lunch program and it begins at Noon.  The other is the number of participating members as we randomly select 12 or more members that I don’t get to see on a regular basis, share lunch, and I get to stay current on all the good news and the challenges facing our members today.

In spite of the challenges facing our community, we hope the work of The Chamber, Travel Medford, the Rogue Valley Foundation, Leadership Medford/Jackson County ChamberPAC and all of The Chamber’s affiliates help your business succeed.  More specifically, we also hope you’ll make use of the new programs we’ve developed for you - Resources for Business Success, Size Up, Young Professional Network, 12@12 and the “new & improved” digital Business Review!  For our community and region to face its current challenges and become the vibrant, economically prosperous Rogue Valley of tomorrow, we have to work together and maintain an open dialogue with our elected leaders. So, no matter the campaign season rhetoric, we must, and we will, share the business view, even when it is unpopular.  Take a look at the candidates endorsed by your ChamberPAC Board of Trustees a little further into this edition.  No matter how you cast your vote....cast your vote! As always, thank you for your strong support of The Chamber and its programs. Brad S. Hicks, CCE, IOM President & CEO The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County

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