The chamber monthly newspaper articles this year are from the perspective being a staff member. Local experiences and knowledge are certainly critical for staff success. However, those successes have been and will continue to be aided by our many affiliations with state and national trade associations.
Many chambers of commerce across the state are members of the state chamber association, known as the Texas Association of Business (TAB). Nationally, it is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). Due to our work in economic development, we are also privileged to be associated with the Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC) and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). And, do not forget tourism with the Texas Travel Alliance (TTA). Alphabet soup for sure!
So, why has our chamber of commerce been a member of these state and national associations and our staff been so active with them? The value we gain from these groups have been key to many local community improvements through the years. One example is how the Central Texas Technology Center (CTTC) was created. I was attending a board meeting of the TEDC in Austin in circa 2002-03 and was speaking to a fellow board member about our initiative to bring higher ed to the community. He related their success in applying for and receiving an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Long story short, New Braunfels applied for and received $1.25 million from the EDA as part of the overall project cost for phase one of the campus. In 2016 we applied again for phase two and were successful in receiving another $1.25 million from the EDA. That five-minute conversation was worth $2.5 million to New Braunfels!
Another example of benefiting our community via these memberships in state and national associations has been via our staff attaining leadership positions in some of them. I was fortunate to be the state chairman of Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives (TCCE) in 2003-04 and state chairman of TEDC in 2006. The first major overnight event held in the remodeled New Braunfels Civic Convention Center was the TCCE Annual Conference in 2008. Having been state chairman a few years earlier did not hurt! New Braunfels also has a unique status with TEDC in that we have had three state chairman from our chamber, a record. Who are they? Tom Purdum in 1996, yours truly in 2006 and Rusty Brockman (now Mayor Brockman) in 2014.
The statewide and national exposure gained with these affiliations is also beneficial with the industry knowledge gained at their quarterly or annual conferences and conventions. While many see travel to these locations as glamorous, believe me that after a while, there is no place like home and most of the time is spent in the conference hotel anyway in meetings. My goal over the last 32 years when it comes to attending one of these is to bring back at least three actionable ideas. The staff cannot wait for my return. Not really!
Another “did you know” example of the benefits is our local economic development strategy and teamwork. Did you know the IEDC CEO facilitated the City of New Braunfels 2012-16 Economic Development Plan? It is all about relationships, and a former city manager here knew the CEO years earlier. Our chamber has been attending IEDC national conferences since 2001. Relationships matter. IEDC fine-tuned our local team approach to recruiting, marketing, governance and more. Now in 2020, we continue with the team approach today.
So the next time you read or hear that chamber staff are attending a conference somewhere, the next community improvement could be just around the corner. Quite a bargain!