Chamber News

Business Leaders Connect to Address Regional Challenges at Summit

WRITTEN BY lclark 11 months ago

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The goal of your Chamber is to advance the Charleston Metropolitan area. And the only way it happens is working together. On Thursday, January 25, 2018, 120 of the region’s top leaders were on hand to do just that – move forward and make a difference.

The mood was energetic and the tone was determined. From real estate developers and bankers to educators and entrepreneurs, it was a who’s who of leaders in the Charleston region. All were committed to making our area the best it can be.

And while it was a great opportunity for the collective horsepower to connect, the goal was for the group to “road map” the work that we need to collectively own to successfully drive our region forward in 2018 and beyond.

State of the Chamber 2017

Chamber President, Bryan Derreberry, opened the Annual Business Leaders’ Summit with a few highlights from 2017:

Breakout Sessions

Think of it as mini “think tanks.” The 120 attendees were divided into four different groups – Local Area Chambers; Common Skills in High Demand; Elevating Housing Attainability; and Chamber 2030. Each group was led by an area leader. And as you would have imagined, discussions sparked real talk and substantive calls for action.

Below are challenges that bubbled up within each group:

Local Area Chambers: Review and Look Ahead

This session, led by the four Local Area Chamber Steering Council Chairs, looked at year one of the platform and then began looking ahead into 2018. Session participants discussed their largest organizational challenges and brainstormed potential programing ideas to address these challenges.

  1. Big and Small – while big businesses are important, we need to focus equally on smaller businesses
  2. Voice “Up” – the Chamber voice needs to start with small businesses and up to the big collective voice to amplify the unified message
  3. Traffic – current conditions make it tough to conduct business across our region
  4. Busy Influential Leaders – there is a need to make it easier to connect small businesses with bigger players in our region

Common Skills in High Demand

In late 2016, the region’s four public school superintendents asked the Chamber to identify a set of career readiness standards and competencies related to the fastest growing sectors and high demand jobs in our metro. To accomplish this, the Chamber convened representatives from a series of industry sectors and held professionally facilitated sessions. The result is the Common Skills in High Demand report. Past Chamber Chair, Laura Varn, shared this report in her session and discussed next steps.

  1. Business Community Commitment – there needs to be a commitment from the business community to partner with education system to ensure educators understand the link between skills needed for jobs
  2. Exposure  – students need exposure to emerging career possibilities and business leaders can help showcase and provide mentorships, internships and connection opportunities
  3. Soft Skills – our education system needs the ability to show the progression of both academic and soft skills
  4. Educate Businesses – schools are already at work, we need to educate and inform the business community on how our schools are working to address their needs and how they can be involved in finding solutions

Elevating Housing Attainability

The jobs are here, paychecks are growing, but many people can’t afford to live here. This particularly impacts our teachers, nurses, police officers and young professionals looking to put down roots. Led by Roper St. Francis’s Melanie Stith, the session took a deep dive into the data and information around our housing needs and then discussed what employers can do to address our region’s housing challenge.

  1. Stay Ahead – the region’s growth continues, so we need to stay ahead of development and be proactive
  2. Traffic & Transportation – we need to improve every day commute, because simply going to and from work is still a major issue
  3. Workforce – with more business eyeing the region, we need to invest in growing our talent pipeline
  4. Local Area Chambers – these smaller chambers are where employees can have a major voice
  5. Growth is Good – positive messages need to come from the Chamber and go out to businesses
  6. Involvement – business partnerships leading the conversation are vital to moving the region forward

Chamber 2030

The panelists of the Chamber 2030 session looked out over the next 12 years, envisioning what the Charleston metro will look like in 2030. We explored what will be here in 2030 that isn’t here today, for instance, new employment centers, density pattern changes and new infrastructure. Marc Marchant, of LS3P ASSOCIATES, was one of the three panelists, along with Alan Bolduc of Avison Young and Jay Byars, Chairman of Dorchester County Council.

  1. Density – the Chamber and the business community will need to do a better job of promoting the good that comes with growth
  2. Development – figure out ways to incentivize workforce development and education across the region
  3. Workforce Needs – our region is not slowing down, so now is the time to address talent and affordable housing
  4. Advocacy – as growth continues, advocacy efforts will need to be heightened to address evolving concerns
  5. Chamber Location – thoughtfully assess where the Chamber is headquartered, along with extending satellite locations, to be proximate to the region’s dynamic growth and multiple employment centers

Next Steps

As you can see, the beginning of an impactful regional advancement plan took shape at the Summit.

Of course, a far-reaching, pro-active plan requires action. Moving forward, a more detailed report of the meeting will be sent out. In the report, there will deeper insights into the discussions that took place, as well as next steps and goals. We will then measure progress toward achieving our area’s goals – both qualitatively and quantitatively. Throughout 2018, we will be updating you on our shared progress.

As a Chamber, strong, private sector leadership, coupled with grassroots employee involvement, sets up both our business community and region for future prosperity. We want to thank every business leader at the January 25th Business Leaders’ Summit. Now, we invite every Chamber member and our partner stakeholders to join us in making our regional advancement plan a reality. Together, we can be unified for solutions that pave the way for Greater Charleston’s future successes.


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