Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tis the season of giving and gratitude! I am thankful that well over 600 businesses believe in and benefit from our purpose as the voice of business in Chico. I am grateful that our Board is growing in size and dedication, allowing us to do more as an organization than ever before. I appreciate the first 6 businesses who signed up to be Community Impact Partners in 2015. Our Legacy Partners: Allevity HR & Payroll, Golden Valley Bank, and Tri Counties Bank. Our Visionary Partners: Enloe Medical Center, Recology Butte Colusa Counties, and Transfer Flow, Inc. The commitment these 6 businesses have made demonstrates genuine member-Chamber mission alignment and an investment in our community health and economic vibrancy. Contact me to become a Partner today!

On the giving side of things, we continue to stay laser-focused on spending our time and resources on our priorities. As advocates, we are strategizing to restore commercial air service in Chico, ensuring that we have the tools and people in place to provide safe and welcoming business districts, partnering to leverage our voice on policy issues and government decisions, and building trusting and accessible relationships that grease the wheels of economic progress in Chico. As economic development partners, we are reaching out to every single business in Chico, we are developing tools that get information to you faster, we are hosting Community Development Updates to ensure the City stays on track with their efforts to improve permitting processes, and we are putting energy toward sector strategies to improve our retail health and grow manufacturing and tech jobs in the north state.

In 2015, make a difference for your business and for your community through membership or partnership in the Chamber. The "voice of business" is made up of many voices - make sure yours is heard!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

During the month of October we began quietly rolling out our Community Impact Partnership. It's a new twist on Chamber involvement - in fact, it's a new twist on everything. Recognizing the changing needs of businesses, we know that mission alignment and ROI are critical for investment. And now that we've firmly established the Chamber as a problem-solving advocate in Chico and successfully re-tooled economic development through collaborative work like TeamChico, we're able to bring more value to our business community and to our members.

We're maintaining standard membership, of course, to foster the business-to-business connections that drive commerce in our town, but we're adding new levels of partnership to support our advocacy and economic development programs. By growing our capacity in these areas and involving business owners like you through partnership and participation, our "voice of business" will continue to strengthen and increase our positive impact on our economy and community. Call me personally for an early overview: 891.5556 x 303.

Speaking of solutions, we're working with the City Council and Airport Commission on commercial airline attraction and feasibility, alternative transportation, and bringing a dedicated airport manager aboard to oversee and develop the economic footprint of the Chico Airport. On November 14th, we'll be rolling out a Community Travel Survey to assess travel needs in the community, and we'll be launching an Executive Business Survey to understand the level of support in the business community for the creation of a proposed travel bank which is needed to incentivize an airline. Please take a moment to participate in these surveys when they are released and/or send your thoughts to me now: katie@chicochamber.com.

As I write this note to you, the results of the election are still a few days away. While the outcome is uncertain, I remain confident in the public/private partnerships we've created with the City and in the relationships we've built with and on behalf of our members. When we share common goals, it's easy to get work done, like the alarm ordinance we revised with the Chico PD that was recently approved by the City Council. The Chamber is well over a century old, so we have the momentum and vision to carry our purpose forward through political, economic, and municipal ups and downs. Your support of our mission makes all of this - and so much more - possible.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A few months before SkyWest notified the City that it will discontinue commercial air service on December 2nd, I half-seriously predicted that 2015 will be the "Year of the Airport." Last Tuesday, when the Chamber agreed to head up the Airline Attraction Committee, we took a central role in shaping the future of the airport and commercial air service in Chico. While we build our strategy and engage stakeholders, I'm receiving comments and letters from local business owners ranging in tone from celebratory to disconsolate. On October 28th, we will return to the joint City Council and Airport Commission meeting with an early plan. In the meantime, I invite your letters and comments on the airport. Does your business rely on commercial air service? What is your ideal destination for air travel out of Chico? Are you willing to incentivize the return of air service by contributing to a travel bank? I want to hear from you.

In October, after months of cooperative negotiations, we expect to bring a revised alarm ordinance to the City Council with high levels of support from our local alarm businesses and law enforcement. The revised ordinance seeks to meet two goals: 1) restore police response to burglar alarms, and 2) decrease overall calls for service. Restoring police response will rebuild confidence and security within our business community, and decreasing overall calls for service will help us redirect safety resources that are lost when false alarms occur.

Now that the City has committed to restoring police staffing over the next 4 years, Clean & Safe Chico has committed to rolling out a public information campaign in the coming months. Too often, we hear distress that nothing is being done when, in fact, there are many hands and hearts and minds hard at work on the very issues that fill our social media spheres day in and day out. We know there is still much to be done, but when you hear good news or see a good deed please share it.
Katie Simmons and Chris Constantin, Assistant City Manager for the City of Chico, at the League of California Cities on September 4, 2014.

On that note, in September, Team Chico was awarded the prestigious Helen Putnam Award for Excellence from the League of California Cities (see photo). This award was given in the category of community services and economic development and recognizes the innovative model of teamwork now reaching and supporting businesses in the Chico area. Read our annual report here. We couldn't do what we do without your constant support and participation - thank you for your membership!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Since I am in the business of advocating for local businesses, I often wish I had a crystal ball. A bit of notice on issues coming down the pipeline would be helpful, but I have to give our team credit for jumping on challenges that seem to appear out of the blue, like SkyWest pulling out of Chico in December. To be honest, we've been aware of this possibility for years and weren't really surprised when the announcement arrived, but it has been all hands on deck over the last few weeks as we've accelerated the development of a public-private strategy to potentially restore commercial air service with a best fit carrier. It's amazing how quickly we can reshuffle busy schedules when our members are asking, "what's next?"

To that end, I'm cautiously optimistic that our alarm stakeholder group's recommendations for an alarm response ordinance will be favorably received by the City Council on September 16th. We've worked closely with the Chico Police Department and members of our business community to meet two goals: 1) restore police response to burglar alarms, and 2) lower false alarm calls for service which were unnecessarily draining limited safety resources. I hope that everyone sees this as a good faith effort to find middle ground. We're looking for a win-win solution here.

Looking ahead, I see the City finally positioning itself for modest growth in the coming years. We will need the right set of leaders to craft this growth responsibly and innovatively. Please attend our City Council Candidate Forum on September 3rd to hear what the current pool of candidates brings to the table. I love Chico as much as anyone else and I want to see a genuine focus on vitality through teamwork. It's what makes our community so special.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last week, my 9 year old daughter asked good-naturedly, "Mom, do we really need to stop and talk to every person we see?" More often than not, the answer is yes. In my role at the Chamber, it is essential that I stay connected to the community. I monitor member feedback, local news, social media, and multiple sources to ensure we're responding to the right issue at the right time. When it became clear that the business community was deeply distressed by the Police Department's recent decision not to respond to unverified burglar alarms, we created a stakeholders group with law enforcement to find middle ground. Our proposed solution will come before the Internal Affairs committee in mid-August. You'll be hearing more from us, too, on plans for the Chico Airport following our recent visit to Santa Rosa (see photo).
 We met with their Airport Manager, City Manager, and Sonoma County Visitors Bureau Executive Director to understand how they went from losing air service to sustaining multiple carriers in a matter of years. We've also transformed years of frustration around City permitting into productive forums with City staff at our newly launched Community Development Updates. So, if you see me out and about, stop and say hello. Share your thoughts and help us be the change we wish to see. Believe me, focusing on solutions sets an excellent example for the generation coming up behind us which includes, of course, our children.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hope your summer is off to a great start!  With our Community BBQ now behind us, we are focused on building strong programs for the second half of the year and outlining our schedule of events and activities for 2015.  So that we meet your needs, please complete our annual membership survey.  Thank you!

On another note, the Chico City Council recently approved the 4-year Police Staffing Plan proposed by Clean & Safe Chico.  Tonight, Council will review the Sit/Lie Ordinance.  Safety is still a top priority for our local businesses and for this organization.  You've called in with your concerns and I encourage you to continue doing so.  The Council needs your constant feedback.

City permitting remains high on our list of business climate concerns, too.  To that end, our Permitting Task Force is pleased to bring you our first Community Development Update on July 24th from noon - 1pm in the Old Muni Building (441 Main).  Join Mark Wolfe and Ruben Martinez for an update on online permitting, energy codes, the DRC, and user fee increases (Phase 1 begins September 20th).  Free to attend - please RSVP.

We're also busy tracking the Butte Regional Conservation Plan, Airport updates, False Alarm PD responses, the revision of Title 19 now with the Planning Commission, and the upcoming election.  Stay tuned for our City Council Candidate Forum as well as another Lunch Hour with our Interim City Manager and Interim Assistant City Manager.  In any transition, it's important to stay present and engaged and we're doing just that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When we create a task force to tackle an issue, we mean business.  Such is the case with our Permitting Task Force and Airport Task Force, both of which were approved by our Board of Directors recently.  The Permitting Task Force is currently working with City staff on recurring concerns related to transparency, fees, and processing times for permits.  With the recent passage of the User Fee Resolution which will allow for increasing and, in some cases, decreasing certain fees, we are ensuring that the transactions are timely and efficient.  Stay tuned for our first User's Group workshop planned for July.

The Airport Task Force will work with the Commission and City on strategies for improving air service.  With the planned addition of a contracted airport manager on next year's City budget, we may have the support of a dedicated steward who will maximize economic activity and business potential at the airport.  With an integrated plan that includes continued input from the business community and investment from the City, the sky just may be the limit for the Chico airport.

Our annual BBQ is right around the corner which means summer is almost here.  Kick off the season with our public safety teams, businesses, and restaurants who are fine-tuning their special tri tip recipes with locally grown ingredients.  See you on the 12th at Manzanita Place!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Let's start with a big round of applause for Team Chico, our local economic development and business support team, for receiving the Grand Prize from the California Association for Local Economic Development on April 9th in Sacramento.  The award was received by our Mayor and members of the team who have spent countless hours over the past year ensuring that the needs of our local business community are met and that Chico is maximizing every opportunity to be responsive and business friendly.  As a member of the team, I can attest to the fact that we are strictly solution-oriented.  

In April, we welcomed 22 new members into the Chamber - wow! 
This organization is growing stronger by the day thanks to your support, investment, and participation in our mission to be the voice of business in Chico.  I am constantly awed by the impact you, your colleagues, and this organization have on the fabric of our community.  Keep up the good work...and we will, too.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It comes as no surprise, I'm sure, to hear that as the voice of business we juggle between 30-50 issues a day, including everything from general business climate concerns like the local permitting process to challenges caused by the state regulatory environment.

At our meeting with Assemblyman Dan Logue last month, it was clear we agree on the fact that many challenges originate with our state agencies, but we wanted to know: how and where does a local Chamber press for the right solutions? Oftentimes, advocacy generates more questions than answers which is why we're expanding our efforts to address as many issues as possible with as many members as possible, as I mentioned in my article last month.

You may have heard me say that advocacy doesn't end with a letter of opinion; it ends when an issue is resolved. To get there, we need to be part of the solution and we need to maintain strong relationships. We rely on the legislative analysts at CalChamber to parse through hundreds of bills and to formulate recommendations on behalf of businesses in the state. We rely on our City Council to hear the concerns of the local business community and to make proactive decisions on our behalf. We rely on our City administration to keep the lines of communication open between city staff and the private sector so that processes can be made more efficient. We rely on our Board and our Legislative Action committee to tackle even the trickiest of issues so we know where to apply pressure and where to send resources. And we rely on our members to use the amazing capabilities of this organization, led by their peers, to enact great change.

I'm ready to spend my time and energy picking solutions rather than battles. If you have a solution you're ready to take on, please give me a call. Or, if you are experiencing a challenge and need the support of your peers, share your thoughts here.

Switching gears, I'd like to welcome Emma Jessee to the Chamber staff. She comes to us with years of marketing and creative experience that we're plugging in to our social media channels and elsewhere. With deep family roots in the Chico area, Emma is thrilled to join an organization with nearly 100 years of community-building under its belt. Please stop by and say hello to Emma, or welcome her at emma@chicochamber.com.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I spent much of last year trying to figure out how to be in at least three places at once -- not an easy task! Given the fact that we continue to participate in so many community initiatives and discussions, I am pleased to share one of our greatest successes of the year thus far: the complete reconfiguration of our Legislative Action committee to include one liaison for each issue. Lisa Johnson with Transfer Flow, Chair of the Legislative Action committee, has taken on the role of airport liaison and Tom Lando is our liaison with higher education. Jolene Francis is representing the Chamber on the Mayor's Task Force on Community Services, and Angela Casler is our liaison on sustainable business. Kym Campbell will serve on the Fire Department Advisory Committee on our behalf, and we are setting up meetings to address ongoing City permitting concerns with multiple liaisons. Beau McSwain, our Chairman, will continue to lead our Board and Business Spotlight program, and Anastacia Snyder and Rick Anderson will lead our Membership committee. With each day that passes, we are connecting members of our business community with critical issues thereby increasing our ability to strengthen our local economy and grow jobs. We are now incredibly organized around what is most meaningful to the business community. We are also following up on the feedback we received through our 2014 Business Survey circulated at the Summit & State of the City Address last week. Share your thoughts here.  Want to get involved? Our Legislative Action committee meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30am, and our Membership committee meets the first Thursday of the month at noon. Both meetings are held at the Chamber. There's a spot for everyone at the table.

Friday, January 3, 2014

We've got great new programs lined up for 2014 including our annual Business Summit & State of the City Address co-hosted with the City of Chico on January 30th from 3-5pm at the CARD Center (free - but RSVP now as seats will fill up!), and a first-time seminar from noon - 1pm on February 6th focused on hiring Chico State students for internships and part time and full time jobs.  Ken Naas with the Career Center on the CSUC campus will share tools and tips for engaging students in Chico area businesses and for retaining our talented workforce with local employment.  If you've ever thought about hiring a Chico State student or recent grad, this workshop is for you.

We're now taking RSVPs for our Lunch Hour with Council member Sean Morgan on February 20th from noon - 1pm at the Old Municipal Building and we're planning a seminar with the State Board of Equalization to provide tax help to local restaurants.  More details soon!

And, of course, what would the new year be without our Annual Dinner & Awards Ceremony?  I'm positively thrilled to acknowledge the work of so many business and community advocates on January 16th from 6-9pm in the Big Room at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.  We'll induct our new Chairman (welcome, Beau!) as well as recognize our outgoing and incoming Directors.  It'll be a night to remember and I hope to see you there!

Call 530.891.5556 to RSVP for these programs or visit www.chicochamber.com for more information.