- By: Al Smith – President and CEO of The Fresno Chamber of Commerce
It’s that time again – a New Year! An opportunity to pause and analyze how the past 12 months went.
Each year we send our members a financial reminder to continue being a voice of the Chamber. It is always nice to report that the overwhelming majority of members respond positively about seeing the value of companies joining forces and constantly pushing for minimum government intervention. We recognize that it is truly the owners and entrepreneurs who represent the vital foundation of this country’s accomplishments.
So, if that is the premise, the next question should be, “Ok… how did last year go?”
While there are positive notes to report, the first is not a happy one. Nowhere in our Chamber’s history have we been able to find an occasion where the Chairman of the Board passed away during his/her 12-month tenure. Yet, this year, we bid farewell to our magnanimous, beloved Chair, Jack Hall of Comcast. What started out as a routine throat problem turned into a fight with cancer that took his life within a period of only 12 weeks. Obviously, in addition to his wonderful family, it set all of us into a tail-spin. It also reinforced, once again, that you as the company leader, are an organization’s most important asset. We still miss his humor, his motivation and his friendship.
But there were joys to celebrate as well.
We focused heavily on electing problem-solving candidates to the Fresno School Board. All of the Chamber’s endorsements were successful. Recognizing that most of Fresno’s problems rest on our next generation’s achievement level, the Chamber also continuously worked to keep our youth engaged and educated.
Toward that effort, we broadened the Chamber’s Junior Board, which annually exposes over 50 area high-school students to the elements of business/civic involvement and volunteerism. We introduced a new class to our Entrepreneur-29 program, which takes at risk students and gives them a taste of life as an entrepreneur. The competition at the end of the program, which features a cash prize, is always a rewarding experience.
In other areas, our monthly Small Business University (SBU) allowed Chamber members to observe some of the latest trends in sales, communication, human resources and revenue opportunities. Our programs such as Leadership Fresno, the E.A.R.T.H. committee, the Ambassadors and our events provided various opportunities for knowledge gathering and business-to-business connections.
And of course, we can’t overlook the Chamber weighing in on business threatening legislation and the election of state and local officials – all of which can ensure a friendlier place for all of us to engage in commerce. On our election scorecard, of the 17 candidates we endorsed, 14 were successful – a positive step forward.
Add to that Chamber mixers and volunteer’s presence at ribbon cuttings, our staff’s efforts to partner with like-minded organizations like the EDC and CVB, the Fresno Chamber has blanketed this community on a daily basis.
So now we welcome our 2015 Chair of the Board, Lorraine Salazar of Sal’s Mexican Restaurants. Through her vision the next twelve months will present more exciting new opportunities!
With your help, this union of businesses will stay focused on ever-improving our community and our quality of life. Thanks for the part you play.