Facilitating Economic Opportunity, Business Success and Community Progress

Since 1924, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce has been the voice of business in the Greater Gainesville region, working on multiple fronts to increase the region’s business-friendliness, competitiveness and quality of life. Today, the Chamber’s efforts have been unified under a single vision of Greater Gainesville as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity that can be seen manifesting in many ways across the region.

Accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a five-star Chamber, ranking in the top 1 percent of Chambers nationwide and serving more than 1,300 members that employ more than 80,000 people, the Gainesville Area Chamber works via four lines of business — Business Development, Economic Development, Education & Talent Alignment and Public Policy — to advance its vision by executing a daily mission, to facilitate economic prosperity, business growth and community progress.

The Chamber’s lines of business provide an organizational framework within which the Chamber is able to both address the common concerns of its members — which are nearly as diverse as the membership itself — and strategically implement collaborative solutions to advance economic opportunity and community progress. From 2015 to 2019, the Chamber — via the efforts and strategies of its Economic Development Committee — aims to usher in Greater Gainesville’s new era of prosperity through the creation of 3,500 new jobs, $218 million in new primary salaries, $250 million in new capital investment and up to $1 billion in new regional investment.

In advancing its vision of Greater Gainesville as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity, the Chamber also advances the interests of the region’s business community at large — whether or not they are Chamber members — creating new opportunities for them and their employees to flourish.

Increasing Business Leadership and Success through Business Development

The Chamber offers its members a wide range of opportunities to help them address individual day-to-day concerns and stay connected, educated and motivated to succeed. With a variety of workshops, councils and connections offered each year, the Gainesville Chamber is Greater Gainesville’s premier business development and leadership entity. By joining the Chamber, businesses are immediately connected with thousands of business leaders, potential customers and vendors in the Greater Gainesville region, increasing their ability for business growth and success.

The Chamber also offers a host of other programs specific to the needs of certain business groups, including small businesses and businesses that fall in one of the region’s five key industry sectors: advanced logistics, advanced materials, agricultural sciences, biotechnology/life sciences and software/information technology. The Chamber also focuses heavily on advanced manufacturing, which is an element of all of the region’s key industry sectors.

Additionally, the Chamber advocates for business in different ways at all levels of government, from establishing positions on key issues that affect the business community at-large to connecting members to the government solutions they need to address concerns quickly and re-focus on what is important — innovating, serving customers and growing their businesses.

The Chamber also offers leadership development programs to sharpen the leadership capacity of the region, including Leadership Gainesville, the fourth longest-running leadership development program in the nation and the oldest in the state of Florida. In addition to Leadership Gainesville, which aims to identify, educate and develop leaders of tomorrow, the Chamber offers Business Matters, an annual, four-part series that focuses on small-business issues.

Transforming Greater Gainesville through Economic Development

Through the work of its Economic Development Committee, the Chamber is the lead economic development entity for the Greater Gainesville region. With a focus on creating jobs and strengthening our economy, the Chamber leads economic development efforts that include assisting new businesses through the startup phase and helping existing businesses expand.

The Chamber also works to recruit new companies, and the jobs and capital investment that come with them, to Greater Gainesville. Our economic development outreach strengthens employment opportunities and community vitality, and facilitates collaboration between business, government and higher education entities.

International trade and presence is key to business and economic growth, which is why the Chamber initiated its Export Gainesville program to help regional businesses begin exporting or improve existing efforts to export. We partner with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service to offer international trade consulting services in Gainesville and a connection to the many export promotion services in the region. On average, sales grow faster, more jobs are created and employees earn more in exporting companies than in non-exporting companies. Also, international trade helps most companies ride out potential fluctuations in our domestic economy, making success more likely.

In 2015, the Chamber began the work of the Transforming Greater Gainesville Five-Year Economic Development Strategy. The Five-Year plan aggressively supports economic and community development funded by investments raised in 2014. This includes four strategies, which collectively support a future of economic prosperity:

Strategy I: Marketing Initiative to Position the Gainesville Region as a Global Hub of Talent, Innovation and Opportunity

In 2016, the Chamber rolled out a strategic marketing initiative to promote the Greater Gainesville Region across the globe. Since then, Greater Gainesville has received significant media coverage in trade publications such as Area Development, IndustryWeek, fDi, Site Selection magazine and more.

Strategy II:  Enhanced Business Development

Since the launch of Transforming Greater Gainesville, the Chamber has continued to execute enhanced business recruitment, expansion and retention efforts, and startup and international trade initiatives, resulting in the announcement of nearly 1,000 jobs and more than $288 million in new capital investment. These efforts focus on the region’s five key industry sectors: advanced logistics, advanced materials/manufacturing, agricultural life sciences, human life sciences, and software/information technology. These industries and their corresponding niche and service sectors offer high wages, career mobility and strong growth potential.

Strategy III:  Regional Growth: Ecosystem Development and Improved Business Climate

Improving our region’s business climate, talent supply and quality of life are paramount to economic development success. The Chamber is leveraging its assets, including the Public Policy Committee, Alachua County Education Compact, partnership with CareerSource North Central Florida and more, to nurture and enhance the region’s business ecosystem. In addition, combining the unique and highly complementary talents and assets of our region to benefit our nine distinct communities allows us to offer targeted industries a more compelling product, particularly as it relates to the number of available workers.

Developing our innovation ecosystem and improving our business climate also requires business-friendly public policies. The Chamber advocates for stronger state competitiveness in economic development, as well as more robust local competitiveness, through a focus on specific policy platforms on key issues. These issues include energy costs, entrepreneurship, state incentive programs, innovation, transportation, small business issues and more.

Strategy IV:  Expanded Regional Stakeholders & Investor Relations

In early 2016, the Chamber launched Innovation Gainesville 2.0, engaging the advocates of the initiative in business recruitment. This development is among the latest in the fourth strategy, which focuses on engaging regional stakeholders and investors in campaign efforts through continuous appraisal of its accomplishments and impacts. This strategy is also being executed through monthly meetings of the Alachua County Regional Partners, a group of economic development professionals and city leaders throughout the County working to coordinate efforts that improve the region’s prosperity.

Transforming Opportunity through Education & Talent Alignment

Companies invest enormous resources to find, develop and keep good employees. The Gainesville Area Chamber works with partners in business and education to offer a full range of talent pipeline and workforce development resources to connect members with an ample supply of high-quality talent. In particular, the Chamber supports the development of workers proficient in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) fields.

Among the Chamber’s recent and major talent and education initiatives is the Alachua County Education Compact, which represents the first time in history that leaders in business, education, government and the community at-large have united behind an effort to transform opportunities available to Alachua County students. Signed by 28 regional leaders, the Compact has created a collaboration that is mobilizing the community around education to better prepare students for higher education and sustainable careers.

The Compact is creating new opportunities to tell the Greater Gainesville story of talent pipeline innovation, garnering statewide and international attention and developing a framework to benchmark and measure success via the following six goals: all students graduate from high school, have access to and are prepared for college and/or career success, have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers and develop an appreciation for the arts, healthy lifestyle habits and a sense of social responsibility. Examples of how the Compact is already touching its ultimate beneficiaries — students — include Career Discoveries Day in 2015, 2016 and 2017, collectively connecting more than 800 students and parents with opportunities to learn about careers in target industries directly from employers. Through this initiative as well as others, including efforts to increase the number of high school students who apply for federal aid to make college affordable, and other efforts to raise money to support local teachers and schools, the Compact has touched more than 1,200 people.

To help to meet the business community’s workforce needs, the Chamber partners with CareerSource North Central Florida (CSNCFL). CSNCFL is part of the statewide CareerSource Florida network of career-development professionals who work directly with Florida employers to identify and cultivate the ready-to-go skills and experience businesses seek. CSNCFL offers a wide array of talent resources that provides employers with opportunities to provide customized training to new or existing staff members, often at no cost. In assisting employers seeking skilled talent, CSNCFL also connects workers with opportunities to secure employment or advance in their careers.

The Chamber also works closely with our nationally leading college and university to attract and retain talent and to create a bridge between talent seeking work and our regional employers seeking employees. For instance, Chamber support for the University of Florida’s Preeminence initiative to become an international educational leader is written into its economic development strategy, as is supporting Santa Fe College’s efforts as a nationally leading institution. Both institutions are making measurable progress toward these goals — in 2015 the prestigious Aspen Institute ranked Santa Fe College No. 1 in the nation and in 2017, the University of Florida was ranked No. 9 in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges ranking.

Elevating Business Friendliness and Lowering Business Costs through Public Policy

Through its public policy efforts, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce facilitates business-climate improvements, and influences policies and outcomes to protect the interests of its members and the community at-large. On local, state and federal levels, the Chamber works directly with elected officials to advocate for policy decisions that increase business friendliness and reduce business and living costs. Chamber advocacy areas include transportation, energy, small business issues, innovation and more.

Recent public policy highlights include successful release of a report summarizing outcomes of its Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative, called i3. This year-long, citizen-driven effort, led by a 10-member steering committee of community leaders, in 2016 and 2017, researched infrastructure needs in Alachua County. The chief recommendation resulting from the process is to support the School Board of Alachua County’s half-cent sales tax initiative in 2018 to fund infrastructure repairs to area schools.

The Chamber also implements the Public Leadership Institute (PLI), a non-partisan program for professionals in the Alachua County/Gainesville area who want to learn about public-policy issues, while exploring the possibility of engaging in public leadership in the future. PLI challenges professionals with business or business-related backgrounds to consider how their skills, talents and experiences may work to address our region’s critical issues.  PLI class participants learn from experts in public leadership, public policy and candidacy. There is no commitment required to run for office.

Can we help you?

Through its four lines of business, the Chamber works strategically to make its vision of Greater Gainesville as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity a reality. However, every business and individual in the region is a part of this vision. If you are a business seeking to get connected, an individual considering entrepreneurship or believe the Chamber can answer your questions about doing business or living in Greater Gainesville, contact us at 352.334.7100 or gainesvillechamber.com.

About The Author

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.