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Identifying business trends can be deceptively tricky. Who can provide the best insight? Who has the most reliable information?
In its economic development work, Chamber staff decided to go to the source: CEOs and top business executives who spend each work day creating new possibilities, analyzing the bottom line and taking care of employees. They are significant players in the complex process of job creation since a majority of jobs are created by existing businesses.
These are the people our staff turns to in its Existing Business Support Program. It puts our economic developers face-to-face with business and industry leaders in the Springfield region. These conversations, held in the executives’ own offices, can reveal information not otherwise available.
“The value of these visits can’t be overstated,” said Ryan Mooney, the Chamber’s senior vice president of economic development. “We want to hear directly from our business leaders, to understand things from their vantage point. Our one-on-one visits are where we find our most valuable information.”
Listening turns into action once the face-to-face visit is over. A summary of trends goes to the board of Springfield Business Development Corporation, the Chamber’s economic development arm. Then staff and volunteer leaders analyze the information, combining it with insights from visits with other executives as future action is analyzed. In fact, staff met with 161 business CEOs last year and with 30 completed so far, 2016 looks to be a good year for exceeding that number.
Based on this feedback, the Chamber has launched a talent attraction initiative to address workforce needs. We’ve brought together manufacturers in the stainless steel industry for regular roundtables. And feedback provided the impetus for the Chamber’s decision to administer the new GO CAPS career exploration program for high school students.
Recent visits have provided much-needed insight such as how lower fuel costs are impacting distribution centers and networks. When consultants who make location decisions for companies come to town, staff relies on the backgrounding they received in visits to provide ground level information about the local market. The same is true if these visits are made by company leaders themselves.
These conversations also inform the Chamber’s work with lawmakers. Regulations can pose problems for growing companies, and the public affairs work done by the Chamber can help break down barriers, acting as the voice of business.
The Existing Business Support Program is an essential part of the job creation process, and an example of how the Chamber works to take care of its members.