Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I don't know about you, but I've already got one foot planted firmly in 2014. This year was amazing, no doubt, and I'm pleased with the exciting growth and team work we see all around us. Since it appears we're headed in the right direction, let's rev up our engines and aim for even more progress in 2014.

We'll kick off the year with our 76th Annual Dinner & Business Awards Ceremony on January 16th. We're still accepting nominations for our business and community awards so send us your ideas! We live in a community of givers, many of whom are deserving of top honors this year. Let's recognize them.

On January 30th, we'll host our 3rd annual Business Summit. Since we don't rest on our laurels around here, we're changing the format this year and shortening the program to get you in and out quickly. The program will include the State of the City Address by our Mayor as well as brief updates on our successes, lessons, and outlook.

You may have noticed that your last Chamber mailing included a full calendar of 2014 events ranging from Q&A sessions with elected officials, power lunches on hot topics, networking opportunities, YPO events, and more. It's going to be another big year thanks to you - our members - who make everything possible.
Happy holidays!

Monday, November 4, 2013

On October 22nd, more than 300 citizens packed City Council Chambers to voice concerns about safety in our community, particularly in our downtown area.  To gain input, Mayor Gruendl created two focus groups:  enforcement, and social services.  Most attendees crammed into the enforcement groups and asked the City Council for the following immediately:  (1) more police officers, (2) the enforcement of existing laws, and (3) the addition of a city-wide ordinance that will make it illegal to block the sidewalk.  Click here for a recap of the meeting.

On November 5th, our City Council will make decisions on each of these requests - click here for the agenda.  If you are concerned about crime in and around your business, home, and/or our parks, please attend the meeting on November 5th at 6:30p.m. (421 Main Street).  The City Council needs to hear from you.

Last month, Tri Counties Bank launched the Chico Retail Market Analysis in conjunction with the Chamber, DCBA, and the City of Chico.  This study was conducted to help local retailers increase their sales.  Click here for results.

And next month, December 4th from 10a.m.-noon, we are pleased to co-present a free seminar on "The Affordable Care Act and What it Means for Small Businesses" (Oroville City Council Chambers, 1735 Montgomery Street, Oroville).  Joe McClure, District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will discuss tax credits, employer options, the rollout timeline, and resources available now.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

After more than a year of research, the Chico Retail Market Analysis sponsored by Tri Counties Bank is ready for release.  Along with Tri Counties Bank, the DCBA, and the City, we're hosting a 2-day launch series on October 15th-16th featuring 3 informational sessions for businesses (increase your sales!), a presentation to our City Council, and a press event at the new Tri Counties Bank training facility at the airport.  Find out how our retail market is doing, what's happening with our secondary market, and where (and how!) local consumers are shopping.  Click here for event details.

On October 22nd, from 6:30-8:30p.m. in Council Chambers, the City Council is hosting a special study session on downtown concerns with specific intent to address policy gaps, economic development opportunities, and potential infrastructure investment.  As a business owner, if you attend just one Council meeting this year, make it this one.  Our Council members need to hear directly from you.

On October 23rd, the County will host a special community planning workshop Council Chambers from 9a.m.-11a.m. focused on alcohol concerns.  And, on October 24th from noon - 1p.m. we're hosting our City Manager, Assistant City Manager, and Administrative Services Director for a free Lunch Hour event in the Old Municipal Building.  RSVP for both of these free events by calling our office at 891.5556 or emailing

The Chico Chamber has done a lot of heavy lifting this year to bring attention to the many issues impacting business. Let's continue to work as a team toward solutions -- we're not going to see improvement until we do.  And check out for details on the many volunteer programs now up and running in downtown and south campus.

Pulling back the lens, it's October 1st which means the health care exchanges are now open.  Refer to our Health Care Reform Toolkit for information you need to stay compliant with changing regulations.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward

Katie Simmons 
Like many of you, I am still a bit mystified by the Affordable Care Act and feel uncertain about the waves of change rapidly heading toward businesses in California.  Luckily, many local experts are working non-stop to explain the nuances and obligations of health care reform and we're working closely with them to give you the information you need.   
I'd like to introduce you to the Small Business Toolkit we put together with our partners at Butte County, Butte College, and the Alliance for Workforce Development.  Our Toolkit walks you through approaching deadlines, training opportunities, and webinars that will help you understand what the new health care law means for your business.   

We recommend that you check out Covered California and their Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), too.  Covered California offers information specifically designed for small businesses such as new options for health coverage and the tax credit fact sheet.

Keep in mind that if you own a small business, you may be required by the Department of Labor to inform your employees about health care coverage by October 1, 2013.  The notice to employees about coverage options is a Department of Labor (DOL) requirement and businesses can use the DOL tool online to determine if they must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The Butte County call center will open on October 1st, too, and will serve as a resource to you and your employees:  877.410.8803.

If you need more information, there are several educational opportunities for small businesses regarding the Affordable Care Act and the Department of Labor (DOL) notice of coverage options requirement.  Please refer to our Toolkit for dates and times and let us know if you have any questions.

It's time to adjust our sails.

~ Katie 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." ~ Phil Jackson

Katie Simmons 
Every day I am fortunate to meet new business men and women in Chico - it's a favorite job perk.  Whether I am meeting with someone who is experiencing challenges (permitting, broadband, workforce, you name it), or I'm meeting with a proprietor who is getting ready to launch a dream business, or we're in a group setting working on broader community issues, I always learn something new about what businesses in Chico need in order to be successful.

Our business walks program (see photo below) is one of the most effective tools in the Chamber's advocacy toolbox.  Along with a team of business service providers from Alliance for Workforce Development, the Downtown Chico Business Association, 3CORE, The Training Place at Butte College, and members of City staff, we cover broad areas of Chico on foot - shaking hands, introducing ourselves, hearing business stories, and getting down to the issues.  If we're in a family business, we learn just as much about Chico's history as we do about what the Chamber can do to help that business succeed.

If you see us in your neighborhood, please take a moment to tell us your story, opinions, and ideas.  We're listening and we're helping businesses one day at a time and one step at a time.

We are here to serve you and by "we" I mean me, Heather, Phyllis, Angie, Rebecca, Jeanette, our fabulous Board of Directors and volunteers, and the many organizations who are participating in our business walks.  Together we offer an astounding number of services, many of which are free to you. Check out our Business Resources Guide for more info.

Think of the Chamber and our team as one of the best tools in your business toolbox.  We're here to help you get the job done.

~ Katie

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a recent meeting, I overheard someone say, "the Chamber doesn't do anything," and I was stunned.  My staff and I run at top speed every day representing the needs of business to government, advocating for business interests in nearly every community discussion, producing meetings and events that connect businesses to each other and to policy makers, engaging young professionals in civic leadership opportunities...the list goes on and on.

But, I hear the question behind the concern: what is the Chamber actually making?  What can a member hold in their hands that the Chamber has produced?  What is the ROI on membership dues if the outcome isn't tangible?

We are fortunate that so many of our local policy makers are watching the Chamber and listening to what our Board of Directors, our members, and our staff have to say.  We've created the kind of presence that is undeniably influential.  We should be proud of this.

It's clear to me, however, that this kind of influence can't be seen or felt at times.  We can't hold it in our hands.  The outcomes associated with our work connecting business to business, business to government, and business to the community are profound and immeasurable but they're largely first.

Consider this:  we helped lead the Clean & Safe Chico
Katie, Bill Such with Jesus Center, Peggy Mead with Chico Association of Realtors
Community Forum in May which led the Chico Association of Realtors to create the House of Hope, a new women's housing facility in Chico, which opened its doors today.  You certainly can't say that the Chamber created this house which will move women off the streets and into safe and clean shelter (a better scenario for the entire community), but if you look closely you'll see that the trail of this amazing project started with Clean & Safe Chico which started, in part, with us.

Thank you, members, for making the invisible possible.  We're all better off for it.

~ Katie 

Monday, July 22, 2013

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." ~ Charles Darwin

Just as it seems like we may be pulling out of one of the worst economic recessions to hit during our lifetimes, the City of Chico faces a financial crisis that has many of us reeling.  With the interruption and/or reduction of key City services, such as police and fire, we're questioning the impact on our businesses and on our families.  We wonder: what does this mean for me?

Because I sit in the shadow of City Hall on a daily basis -- literally hunkered down in the Old Municipal Building as questions and concerns fly -- I feel a great sense of responsibility and urgency to help businesses and members of our community understand not only what's going on but what's to come.

In many ways, it's business as usual for us.  We provide our members with extraordinary opportunities to connect, learn, and make a difference.  That's our job.  But, we're juggling issues on an advocacy level that are profoundly significant and unpredictable right now...issues that have enormous impact on the health and vitality of our economy and rest largely in the hands of our City staff and Council.

Most of my work is done behind the scenes and I share my opinions and suggestions with our policy makers regularly.  But, the best thing I can do at times is to simply get out of the way and let the businesses -- you -- speak directly.   After all, the voice of business belongs to all of us.

To that end, I encourage you to attend our Lunch Hour with the City Manager on Thursday, July 25th, at noon.  Brian Nakamura will be joined by Mark Orme, Assistant City Manager, and Chris Constantin, Administrative Services Director, and all have pledged their time and expertise to you during this Q&A session.  Seating is limited so let me know right away if you'd like to attend.

I'm counting on you!

~ Katie

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide what to do." ~ Elbert Hubbard

Last night, with Winchester Goose (a proposed craft beer bar) on the agenda, the City Council decided to hold off on making any further alcohol license decisions until they've had a chance to review the municipal code and consider policy options at the Internal Affairs committee meeting now scheduled for July 24th at 8am.  Licenses for the Winchester Goose along with the Mangrove Mini Mart (reinstated for discussion) will be considered at the August 6th Council meeting.

This delay isn't ideal for the proprietors, I'm sure, but it halts a chain of events that was considered very business-unfriendly by some.  To grapple with the concerns raised at this year's Community Call for Action, hosted by Chico State, I'm in favor of bringing the City, campus officials, business organizations, owners, proprietors, student organizations, Enloe representatives, and others together to begin creating a community-wide strategy.  If we don't work toward the same solutions together, we're going to end up sharply divided and adrift.  As I said in a recent email to our Mayor, City manager, and Chief of Police about this issue: "Let's get ahead of this speeding train, slow it down, and decide where we want it to go.  Right now, it's carving a(nother) very contentious path through our community." And, in my honest opinion, the last thing we need is more conflict.

On another note, I recently met with Don Krysakowski and Renee Friemoth of the Work Training Center. They are actively looking to pair businesses with WTC clients through a job placement program called Community Employment Services.  Having worked as a job skills coach in college, I know how powerful programs like these can be for employers and potential employees.  If you're interested in exploring the benefits of a risk-free situational assessment in your business, please contact Renee at 343.7994 x 1407.

Enjoy the holiday tomorrow and stay cool!

~ Katie

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity." ~ J.S. Baxter

I said to a trusted colleague yesterday morning that if our Visitor Center funding emerged from the Council's budget discussion 100% intact I would have a bit of survivor's guilt.  Watching broad cuts affect the full spectrum of City services, it made sense to me that we would see a reduction in funding for next fiscal year -- and it turns out we will.  So, what will we do with less?  Well...more!  I have big plans to do things differently, more creatively, and with a team of fabulous college students who will help us build our social media presence in the coming months.

Now more than ever, it is critical that we connect visitors, tourists, and residents to local businesses and that's why it makes perfect sense for the Visitor Center to continue to live squarely within the Chamber.  As the City continues to cope with financial challenges that directly impact the services provided by many non-profits in town, I hope collaborative strategies focused on economic recovery will bring us even closer as a community.  Our Team Chico approach -- pulling together the resources and expertise of the Alliance for Workforce Development, 3CORE, DCBA, Chico Chamber, Chabin Concepts, and City of Chico to reach as many business as possible with a full set of services -- is a great model. I am a firm believer that we have a hand in designing our future, and I have confidence that the Chamber will be a leading voice in paving the way forward.

In other news, I'm thrilled to congratulate our BBQ winners: Enloe FlightCare (Grand Prize and People's Choice in the backyard division), Hunter Drake Smokehouse BBQ (People's Choice professional division) and Kinder's Meats & Deli (Grand Prize professional division).  Many thanks to ALL of the teams for competing, to our sponsors for making the BBQ possible, and to our attendees for joining us on the lovely shaded lawns of Manzanita Place as we honored Enloe Medical Center's centennial anniversary.

Looking toward Fall, we're planning our Business Spotlight calendar for the first City Council meeting of each month. If you'd like to be a featured business, please let me know which month works best for you.  This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the economic, community, and historical impacts of local businesses and we want to aim the spotlight on YOU.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas A. Edison

Shortly after I graduated from college, I took a temporary position assisting the staff at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine as they prepared for their annual meeting in Denver, Colorado.  The organization, I would soon learn, had thousands of members -- mostly M.D.s and Ph.D.s -- from all over the world who specialized in the research, development, and application of MRI.  These members would soon converge in Denver for a 7-day accredited medical convention with 9 parallel sessions, over 1500 poster exhibitions, and a technical exhibition featuring the latest equipment from 50+ companies including GE, Philips, and Toshiba.

My job, which I bit into with great force, was to assist the staff in anything and everything.  I alphabetized paperwork, ran errands, found files, took phone messages, and tied up loose ends.  Four short years later -- after learning from every conversation and transaction that came my way -- I'd wiggled my way up to top of the meetings staff and was directing conventions and workshops in Europe, Asia, North name it...all because someone had given me an opportunity on that very first day by opening the door.

We all have stories like this.  We've climbed ladders, gone out on limbs, built things from scratch; our pathways are varied and unique.  But I'm sure we all have something in common, too: strong hands that have reached out to guide us, pull us forward, and to lift us.

Kimberly & Katie
I have no doubt that my new intern, Kimberly Cooke, will take advantage of the opportunity in front of her in the same way that I did when I was her age.  The Chamber has tackled enormous issues this year and she is perfectly positioned to make an impact that you, our members, will feel.

I love when doors open for me and I love opening doors for others.  It's the way the world works.  If you're in a position to take an intern under your wing I encourage you to connect with the career centers at Chico State and Butte College.

Open the door to your business, invite someone inside, and change a career path (and a life!) in the process.

~ Katie

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Last night, the Chico City Council discussed the need for a sit/lie ordinance in Chico.  Each and every Council member, whether or not they agreed with the ordinance, recognized the need to support local businesses and our business climate.  Read the results of their discussion and decision here.

We're moving full steam ahead with our Clean & Safe Chico Community Forum on Wednesday, May 29th, at 6:30p.m. at the El Rey Theatre.  You'll hear about the programs now in place to help address community-wide concerns and you'll have the opportunity to rally support for your solutions.  We have 600 seats to fill and we need to pack the house to make sure our voices are heard.  No RSVPs, no fees.  See you there!

The results of our recent Shopper Survey are in and -- round of applause -- we're pleased to report that nearly 1,500 people weighed in.  We'll be releasing the data shortly but here's a sneak peek.  We asked: What do you think are the major advantages of shopping or doing personal errands in Chico?  Nearly 70% of the respondents answered "Supporting Local Businesses."  Now that's the spirit!

On that note, did you know that $.68 of every dollar spent at a locally-owned business and $.43 of every dollar spent at a business within the city limits returns to the community (source: Local First/Collaborative Economics)?  We're working on a "Choose Chico" campaign to help build awareness around the power of patronizing businesses in Chico which dovetails back into our Clean & Safe work perfectly.  If we want to see changes within our community, we need to continue to strengthen the partnership with our City Council, do our part in supporting local initiatives, and choose Chico when shopping.

Tomorrow morning, we're hosting a Membership Orientation & Refresher at 8:30a.m. in the Chamber office (441 Main, 2nd floor).  If you're a member or interested in membership, this is the place for you.  Make the most of what we do for you.

Next week, on May 30th, Council member Tami Ritter will be our Lunch Hour guest from noon to 1p.m..  And, to give you a better understanding of the City of Chico's fiscal outlook and priorities, we're co-hosting a City of Chico Budget 101 session with the City of Chico, DCBA, and Chico Stewardship Network, on Friday, June 7th, from noon - 1:30p.m. at the Chamber office. Speakers include Brian Nakamura, Mark Orme, and Chris Constantin, the new Administrative Services Director.  Listen, learn, and ask your questions; we want City staff to hear from you.  RSVP to me:

At the Festival for Change two weeks ago, Chico State students were encouraged to share what they'd like to "save." Comments included rivers, creeks, the ocean, our land, etc.  My second grader sized up the task, grabbed a pen, and wrote, "save the businesses."  I heard the same sentiments from the City Council last night.  I think we're doing something right.  Let's keep up the good work.

~ Katie

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In light of the fact that the civil streets ordinance discussion was tabled at last night's City Council meeting, let's focus on what IS happening right now in our community:

The Goodwill Ambassador program is officially up and running with 20+ business owners, advocates, and citizens now serving as volunteers.  Shifts run from 11a.m.-2p.m. and 5p.m.-7p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of every week, providing merchants, shoppers, visitors, and all downtown patrons with information, hospitality, and assistance.  Chico Stewardship
 Network, the group spearheading the program, believes that the answers to our community problems rely largely on citizens.  Without a visible police presence in downtown Chico, this group 
will serve as the eyes and ears of the community, reporting issues and challenges as they arise.    To become a Goodwill Ambassador, contact Michelle Anderson-Curran.

The Chico Street Pastors program (above), an initiative of Neighborhood Church and the Jesus Center, will provide the community with a different kind of support.  Focusing on south campus neighborhoods and downtown Chico, volunteers will move through the streets between the hours of 10p.m. and 4a.m., providing assistance and light services to improve the safety and well-being of the hundreds of citizens who are out and about during late-night hours.  To volunteer, please contact Bill Such.

Speaking of community-driven change, SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere), invite you to the Community Festival for Change this Friday, May 10th from 4-8p.m. in the City Plaza. This event will serve as a continuation of the CSUC Community Call for Action and Campus Commitment to Action Summit hosted by California State University, Chico.  The Festival will feature music, food trucks, community tables, guest speakers, and a ceremony to remember the campus-changing events of this year.  In the words of SAVE, this event will "signify closing a chapter and moving forward with the positive momentum and change that is coming!"

If you're inspired by the work being done by businesses, organizations, students, and citizens and you want to learn more, mark your calendar for the Clean & Safe Community Forum on Wednesday, May 29th, at 6:30pm at the El Rey.  No RSVPs, no fees, just a good, solid opportunity to get involved.

Let's get it done.

~ Katie

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

One of my personal goals for the Chamber is to grow our membership by showing business women and men why they should join rather than asking them or telling them to join.  I want to do the kind of work that businesses value and proactively elect to invest in.  In this day and age of limited budgets, I don't see any other way forward:  we must earn the trust of the business community rather than ask for it or expect it.

I take this mission very seriously and I know my staff and Board of Directors do as well.  We're not in this business for the good of the Chamber, we're in this business for the good of business.  When that message starts to resonate throughout the community as resoundingly as it does within the walls of our offices and meeting spaces, I'll know that our actions are speaking louder than our words.

We're already seeing signs of success.  When a longtime business owner slides me a note during a meeting that says, "I think the Chamber is doing terrific work, please send me a membership application," it's not the sale that makes my day, it's the happy customer.

Businesses join the Chamber for a number of different reasons, but often for one specific reason over all others.  Those #1 reasons vary: 1) networking, 2) exposure, 3) connections, 4) representation, 5) it's the "right thing to do."  For many, the positive outcomes of choosing membership are intangible and unquantifiable. 

If you're not a member, please keep an eye on what we're doing.  You'll see that we work hard in representing you and your needs, in delivering the best networking opportunities possible, in giving you the exposure you need to reach your customers, in connecting you to the people and resources that will move your business to the next level, and in choosing initiatives that you have identified as critical to your success.  That is how we serve you best.  The rest is up to you.

I mean it when I say thank you for your membership.  Nothing shows me that we're on the right track like your trust.

~ Katie

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Yesterday, we officially kicked off the Chico Retail Market Analysis, sponsored by Tri Counties Bank, with two focus sessions for retailers. Today at 3:30 we'll host a third at Holiday Inn and we encourage all retailers to attend.

If you missed the meetings, here's a sampling of what we want to know:

What are the top advantages and disadvantages you associate with being a retailer in Chico?  In addition to a strong economy, what are the most important factors to your business success?  What types of retail businesses would you like to see Chico attract or grow to improve its retail business mix?  What could Chico retailers do to attract more local and visitor shoppers?

Find our complete retailer questionnaire here.

Not a retailer but have thoughts to share?  Please take a moment to complete our shopper survey.

Be on the lookout for springtime workshops following this analysis explaining the outcomes and applications of this data for retail success.

Later this month, on April 25th at noon, we're co-hosting a training seminar at The Training Place, Butte College, with tips and tools for empowering your employees.  There is no cost to attend - just call 895.9015 to reserve a seat.  Click here for more info.

And, on April 26th, we're hosting another free Lunch Hour event with Senator Jim Nielsen from noon to 1pm at the Chamber.  Email me to RSVP!

As the weather warms us, we're busily planning our Community BBQ scheduled for a new date and location this year: Friday, June 14th at Manzanita Place in Chico.  Call or email Heather Ugie to participate in the St. Louis-style pork rib cook-off, book exhibit space, or sponsor a team or band!  Tickets go on sale soon.  Get ready for some delicious fun in the sun!

~ Katie

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Business Spotlight is on Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley!

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley was established in 1995 as a call to action from concerned community members who saw a need for the young people of Chico. In 1998, the Chico Clubs merged with the Boys & Girls Club of Paradise to form the North Valley organization. In 2007, the Club opened in Butte County’s Juvenile Hall in Oroville in response to the continuing problem of recidivism, and in 2008 opened a teen center in Oroville to support youth in this community.  Since opening, youth that have been served by the Club have reduced their recidivism from 75% to 29%.

Today, the Club operates nine sites located within Butte County, including three Teen Centers (Chico, Paradise, & Oroville), the Chico Clubhouse, Juvenile Hall, and five school sites in Paradise and Magalia.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley provides direct services to more than 2,000 youth of Butte County; offering wrap around services to many of its youth and their families, fostering positive friendships and adult relationships, and providing a safe place for children to go every day after school.

Their mission is “to inspire and enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, responsible & caring citizens.” They utilize tested, proven, and nationally recognized programs in five core areas: Character & Leadership, Academic & Career Development, Health & Life Skills, the Arts, and Sports, Fitness & Recreation. They also offer use of computer labs, summer camps, field trips, college tours, credit recovery, job mentoring, tutoring, a healthy snack and supper daily, service learning, youth led initiatives, re-entry to the population in Juvenile Hall, targeted case management, community service, teen programs, family nights, and more.

Here are some of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley’s successes:
·        100% of members who participate in College Bound were admitted into a college in 2011 & 2012.
·        Members who participate in the SAT Preparation Class had at least a 200 point increase on their final score.
·        Members who participate in Power Hour improve their grade point average by a minimum of one letter grade.
·        In 2010 65% of participating seniors graduated without a plan for college; by 2012 100% of our seniors graduated with 98% going to college.

In 2012 the BGCNV served 2099 youth members and more than 2,500 other youth through special events, dances, and activities in the community and on school campuses.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley have a total impact of $4.0 million a year on our local economy and support 119 people including direct and indirect jobs and households.   Our community and local businesses provide a quarter of the Boys & Girls Clubs' funding.

Many thanks to Rashell Brobst, CEO of BGCNV, Valerie Reddemann, Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors, and Audrey Taylor of Chabin Concepts for helping us spotlight the Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley at the Chico City Council meeting on April 2, 2013.

~ Katie

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Clean & Safe Chico Moves Ahead

If you watched last night's City Council meeting, you saw a community grappling with tough issues: public safety funding  challenges and sacrifices, redirecting citizen generosity, exploring policy gaps, tackling blight, and addressing social service benefits and needs.  This discussion, though awkward and uncomfortable at times, is integral to maintaining a well-functioning community...and we've only just begun.

Many audience members felt frustrated last night, others were cautiously optimistic.  I imagine that everyone in the room probably felt a mix of both at one point or another. 
However, I look at the breadth of topics we covered during this Council study session on cleanliness and safety and I'm proud.  We moved fairly seamlessly from public safety to policy to infrastructure to engagement without a hitch, demonstrating the true interconnectivity of the key pieces of the puzzle.  Many of Council's decisions were building blocks to next steps, such as the decision to return in 8 weeks to look more deeply into the financial and political implications of immediate public safety relief in the downtown core and the ordinances that might serve as additional tools.   Ultimately, we'd like to see a fully funded public safety team in place by December 31, 2013 to address needs throughout Chico.  After all, our members identified public safety as our #1 advocacy priority in 2013...and we took this seriously.

Our Clean & Safe Chico team, largely responsible for framing the topics around action, had some successes last night, too.  We officially launched our generosity campaign to encourage giving to service providers rather than to panhandlers which, studies show, delays individuals from seeking help and attracts panhandlers to our community.  Please, pick up a poster at the Chamber to share this message with your clients, customers, families, and friends.

As much as I want to see change happen overnight, I accept the many baby steps we're going to have to take along the way.  I came across a quote today that affirmed my attitude about our clean and safe efforts: "A positive thinker does not refuse to recognize the negative; he refuses to dwell on it." (Anna Quindlen)

On that note, I encourage you to find your niche within this ongoing mountain-moving endeavor.  Opportunities exist that accommodate every set of beliefs within the framework of our solution-based Clean & Safe Chico model: mentoring, volunteerism, campaign messaging, policy advocacy, etc.  If you need help now, please let me know so that I can communicate your concerns to our City Council.  Or, please get in touch with our decision makers directly.  If you want to help but you're not sure where or how, we will connect you to the project that will help you make the changes you most want to see.

Because these conversations don't stop at the end of the workday, we're all over facebook and twitter: Chico Chamber, Clean and Safe Chico, Respect Chico.  Find us, follow us, and chime in.

~ Katie

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let's Talk About The Wins

1.  Following our Clean & Safe presentation on March 5th, the Chico City Council decided to dedicate their entire March 26th meeting to concerns about cleanliness and safety and what we can do right now to deliver thoughtful and effective solutions.  What’s on the agenda: generosity campaign, Plaza programming, law enforcement, goodwill ambassadors, and other key initiatives.  Stay tuned for details on this important City Council study session and make plans to tune in.  Concerned that we’re only focusing on downtown Chico?  I assure you we’re looking at this from a community-wide perspective.  But, we’re confident that a few successes in the downtown are on the horizon.

2.  Several bar and restaurant owners have been getting together following CSUC’s Community Call for Action to ask “what can we do?”  Believe it or not, with the help of LRT Graphics, they’ve already launched a “Respect Chico” campaign aimed to encourage customers (yes, students) to respect themselves, respect others, respect their community and, bottom line, drink responsibly:  They planned to roll out their ads and posters in time for St . Patrick’s Day and, well, they’ve done it!  Look in the Synthesis and CN&R this week for a glimpse of their message, and look for posters in their businesses by the end of today -- thank you LRT!  Want to join the conversation and/or support the cause?  Let me know.

3.  The Chico Chico Retail Market Analysis, sponsored by Tri Counties Bank, is now underway following an Advisory committee kickoff meeting this week.  We’re planning three focus sessions to capture your thoughts, experiences, and guidance.  We need your input to generate results that will be applicable to retail success for years to come.  Two focus sessions are set for April 9th -- at the Mall (3:30-4:30pm) and the downtown branch of TCBK (5:30-6:30pm) -- and a third session at Holiday Inn on April 10th from 3:30-4:30pm.  Pick the date/time/location that works best for you and watch your inbox for an invitation!

4.  The City of Chico continues to improve their permitting process based upon feedback given at our workshop in early December.  Click here to see what’s been done and keep your input coming!

There is so much to be done.  Let’s hang in there, stay connected, and keep up the good work!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, New Chamber

Happy New Year to our members, friends, and followers!  Today seems like a perfect day to stop, take a breather, and spend a little time updating our blog -- something I plan to do as often as possible in 2013.

If you know me or if you've seen me from a distance, it's probably pretty clear that I speed along at 60 miles per hour every second of every day.  This is true (just ask the Chamber staff!), but as I've settled in here over these last several months, I've realized that if I'm going to accomplish my entire "to do" list this year, I'd better store up some energy.  More on that later...

Looking back over the monumental year we've had here at the Chamber, I'd like to share my Top 5 Proudest Moments of 2012 (cue sweeping theme music):

1. ADVOCACY: Launching our Business Summit program in January 2012 which will heretofore allow us to set our annual advocacy priorities with input from our members, elected officials, City representatives, and the larger community.  Hear a progress report from this past year and help us set NEW priorities at our 2nd Annual Business Summit on January 31st.

2. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Becoming a leader in local economic development efforts and projects.  Our 2012 Business Summit was instrumental in the development of the City's draft Economic Development Action Plan and we are a lead voice in all conversations regarding business retention programs and services.

3. NEW LOOK, NEW ATTITUDE: Re-branding the Chamber with a fresh, colorful, and positive new logo, web site, and vibe.  We're proud of our 100+-year legacy and we're heavily investing in the future of our organization, our member businesses, and our young professionals.

4. VISITOR CENTER: Moving our offices and Visitor Center to the Old Municipal Building.  Nothing freshens things up like a move, and we're much lighter and leaner now than we've ever been.  If you haven't seen our new location, stop by 441 Main Street and check us out!

5. MEMBERSHIP: Revitalizing our member programs and services. The entire Chamber staff, our Membership Committee, and our Board members have been involved in rethinking how we relate to the business community and our members.  We've got our ear to the ground and we hear what you need, want, and think.  We know your business has changed and so have your priorities.  My door is always open and so is my inbox.

6.  CLEAN & SAFE: Okay, I know I said Top 5, but I'll squeeze this one in, too.  Businesses and community leaders have rallied around the significant economic impact of cleanliness and safety in our community.  To advocate for business interests in these conversations, we've met with the City Manager, the Chief of Police, leaders at the DCBA and other organizations, local services providers, and representatives from CSUC.  In December, we went before the Chico City Council to help shape the discussion and to share our priorities.  Look for initiatives to come out of these conversations within the next few weeks.

Now on to 2013....

In January alone, we are hosting two of our largest events of the year: our 75th Annual Dinner on Thursday the 17th (purchase your tickets now!), and our Business Summit on January 31st.  We're also preparing the 2013 Forecast issue of our Business Voice Quarterly (new this year!), and promoting our "Coffee Break with Mayor Goloff"  event on January 24th from 3:30-4:30pm here at the Chamber.

Registration is free for our Summit and Coffee Break.  Don't miss these events designed to help businesses make a bigger impact on local decision-making.  Email me to RSVP.

This month, we're also thanking our outgoing Board members and Chairman, Roger Hart, and welcoming several new members to our Board of Directors, as well as our new Chairman for 2013, Valerie Reddemann with SynMedia and PostMaven.  Our leadership continues to grow and strengthen.

What to expect from us throughout the remainder of 2013?  Well.... A LOT!  We'll continue to host Chamber Business Connections each week as well as ribbon cuttings, open houses, and anniversary celebrations throughout each month.  Look for additional opportunities for casual Q&A with our elected officials each month, as well as workshops and power lunches.  We'll host our annual educational event in April, and our Community BBQ in June (new location and Friday date this year!).

I could go on and on, but I'd better save something for my next blog post!

With that, I'd like to thank you for your continued support of the Chico Chamber and for your involvement in our efforts to make Chico the best place to do business.  Join a committee if you'd to get more involved, or send me your thoughts on how we can do what we do even better.

In the same spirit we used to hear "wear a sweater!" as we headed out into the cold as children, I'd like to encourage you to "use your membership!" in 2013.  Not a member?  Join today.

Wishing you great success this year,