One of the key criteria established by the board of the Minnesota Chamber in its search for a new president was the ability to develop and build relationships with local chambers of commerce across the state. The importance of these relationships in the search process demonstrates the commitment that the Minnesota Chamber places on building a partnership with local chambers. From my perspective, after working at the national level with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for 20 years, this level of commitment does not exist elsewhere in the country. It is a relationship distinctive to Minnesota, and one that I am fully committed to enhancing in the coming months and years.
At least three key partnerships with local chambers make Minnesota unique, and makes our business community stronger – professional support through the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Executives (MCCE); business retention and job growth through Grow Minnesota!; and member advocacy to improve and protect our state’s business climate.
MCCE is the professional association for local chambers of commerce. Its goal is to strengthen staff leadership as well as the organizational foundation of local chambers across Minnesota – from the smallest, part-time chambers to the large regional centers. The Minnesota Chamber will continue to lead and manage MCCE with the goal of increasing engagement. MCCE offers training and development opportunities for chamber staff that cannot be found elsewhere in your community. The local chambers involved in MCCE represent the best-in-class in Minnesota with their members as the ultimate beneficiaries. Successful local chambers, plus a strong state chamber, result in a vibrant Minnesota business community.
More than 60 local chambers of commerce lead business retention efforts as partners in Grow Minnesota!. This program started when many of our business leaders commented that they were being recruited by neighboring states, yet not once had a Minnesota leader contacted them. Grow Minnesota! is about building relationships, solving problems, and ultimately keeping and growing companies in Minnesota. The relationship is critical, and is most valuable when it is developed among local private-sector leaders. Last year alone, Grow Minnesota! saved nearly 2,600 jobs.
Finally, advocacy – the Minnesota Chamber’s greatest value proposition. Advocacy can be a local chambers’ greatest value proposition as well. After all, what other organization in your community is going represent your members on issues that impact their everyday livelihood – whether it is a sign ordinance, or a tax increase? Local chambers are proud advocates for their members and the free enterprise system. Advocacy is critically important, and it does not have to be adversarial – we collectively represent our members with facts, research and good manners. Last year, more than 40 local chambers united with the Chamber Federation to speak with one voice on the business community’s top five priorities at the Legislature. We look forward to uniting local chambers again this year, and encourage your local chamber to be a part of the Chamber Federation in 2016.
My commitment to supporting and advancing the effectiveness of local chambers is not only professional, but personal. It is also one that is shared by the Minnesota Chamber Board leadership and the staff. I welcome your comments and suggestions as we continue to work together to provide an environment where our members can continue to grow, provide opportunity for our citizens, and strengthen our economy.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce: www.mnchamber.com.