An Influence for Progress

  • By: Chamber President & CEO, Al Smith


It seems like only yesterday that Ruth Evans and Steve Geil invited me to a lunch at the Elbow Room. As a guy who had retired a year earlier, I had no clue as to why. During that conversation they asked me to become the “interim” head of the Fresno Chamber.

As we enter December, it may only feel like “yesterday” but I am actually seven years into one of the most invigorating experiences of my decades in business. By the way, be wary of those interim jobs.

Running other organizations, I’d always been a member of the Chamber but never realized its connectivity to our community.

Sure, we network with members in order to do business with other businesses. We are kinda the official cheerleader for our area. We do promote an economic quality of life; we offer education opportunities for members and we annually applaud and salute outstanding leaders and businesses in our community. Those are all noble efforts.

But at the top of these noble exercises is working to create a healthy business climate that allows for profits and an abundance of job creation. It is influencing government at the local, state and national level to reduce the bureaucratic shackles imposed on businesses large and small.

We have just completed a contentious election. The Chamber worked hard to finance and encourage the success of business friendly candidates. As I look at our incoming City Council and Board of Supervisors, at no time in my memory have I seen a collection of decision makers that truly understand the importance of assisting the job-creators more than this group.

In a recent survey our Chamber members acknowledged that the City (74%) and the County (65%) were business friendly. The same could not be said at the state (27%) and federal level (33%)

The Chamber wears a lot of hats and as we enter a new year, we want to continue do it to the best of our ability. But, government advocacy is paramount if we want a prosperous future. It either helps business and jobs or hurts them.

As the area’s largest business organization an aggressive effort benefits us all. Your voice is crucial.

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