Having the opportunity to regularly communicate with Business in Greater Gainesville readers is always a pleasure. However, I was especially pleased to learn that the April issue would highlight one of the primary functions within the Chamber’s scope of work — facilitating business relationships and the networking opportunities that foster them. At the Gainesville Area Chamber, our scope of work in a typical year includes hosting more than 100 events with more than 5,000 attendees. While each Chamber event may be unique in its theme or purpose, together they serve as a major catalyst for establishing and developing business relationships in Greater Gainesville.
I would assert that chambers of commerce, whether their territory is regional, statewide or national, are more strongly positioned than most to understand this concept. The engagement of hundreds of business leaders from diverse backgrounds and industry sectors provides a region with ongoing opportunities to leverage relationships in order to achieve a common goal. In Greater Gainesville, that goal is to grow and maintain a strong ecosystem for businesses that serve as a catalyst for community progress. We at the Chamber see this community living out that goal daily, making the business case for why we need to work even harder in this area as we grow.
In a Spring 2014 article in Chamber Executive, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives President Mick Fleming states that when asked to justify the Chamber’s reason for existence, most executives mention networking or connections within the first 10 seconds. Even for large chambers with grand missions, connectivity among influential community and business leaders and decision-makers is a critical part of the value. Fleming takes this concept even further, articulating that the key may be to realizing that the Chamber itself is the network, an assertion I agree with wholeheartedly.
Fleming states, “Collective action, mutual responsibility for the future, participatory problem solving, group buying power, coalition building, person-to-person support, transactional friction reduction, efficient information exchange, sense of belonging, fame-by-association, shared lexicon, economic mobility and, yes, greater happiness – I’ve seen all these things in chambers across the country.”
Darcy Rezak, an expert in business networks and former head of the Vancouver Board of Trade, notes that “purposeful networking” – that is, taking part in reaching a shared goal – can build long lasting relationships and social capital. These networks will pay dividends to your community and chamber for decades, even if the participants don’t form social bonds or buy each other’s products.
At the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce we work with a dual purpose of facilitating both social bonds and mutual business support among the Chamber’s member companies. This month, that dual purpose will come to life at the Chamber’s Annual Business to Business Expo on April 20, from noon to 4 p.m. at the newly renovated Wyndham Garden Gainesville located at 2900 SW 13th St. In addition to each of our 1,300 members, the entire community is invited to attend this event— commonly called the “B2B Expo,”— and interact with numerous businesses and company executives to learn about the goods and services on display and share thoughts, best practices and awareness. Many attendees of the 2016 B2B Expo report making valuable contacts and securing serious business leads during the event.
Our entire 2017 scope of work includes numerous opportunities for building valuable relationships by way of strengthening businesses and the region at-large. This year, the Chamber’s mission to facilitate economic prosperity, business growth and community progress will be advanced by more than 20 councils and committees that will involve hundreds of regional business leaders.
From the Chamber’s industry councils, Software/IT, Healthcare and Life Sciences, — which exist to provide an industry specific forum for discussion and idea-sharing for leaders in key sectors— to the Chamber’s International Committee, Nonprofit Council and more. The potential is high for building relationships while creating stronger regional opportunities. Additionally, our Distinguished Speaker series, which provides members with unique opportunities to interact and engage in discussions with elected officials and key leaders from the public and private sectors, affords a more personal setting in which to mutually develop these pivotal relationships.
All in all, through council and committee involvement and its wide array of events, the Chamber sets the ultimate stage for opportunities to connect with the Greater Gainesville business community. Remember, the Chamber is the network. Our question to readers now is, “Are you a part of it?” If you are, get involved. Come to a Business Before or After Hours, or another Chamber event to meet your fellow business owners and see what you are missing.
To readers who are not a part of the Chamber, our question is, “What are you waiting for?” Your fellow businesses and leaders look forward to welcoming you this year.
SUSAN DAVENPORT is President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.