Building Community & Connection: Unveiling 2022-’23 Strategic Priorities
by John Brewer, CAE, President & CEO
Why do some move to Billings and choose to make this their home, while others struggle to connect to their scene and their people? Billings has something for everyone, but not everyone finds their groove. Individuals and families are moving here in large numbers, which is great news for our competitive job market. With 2.3% unemployment, and 3,893 job openings in Yellowstone County (according to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, July 2022), we need “those Californians,” graduating students, and those with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles to authentically feel THEY belong in Billings.
This year’s Billings Chamber priorities focus on building a purpose-driven community by connecting all people. People may gravitate to Billings for a job, family, opportunity, higher education, or to connect with the great outdoors. Quality schools, crime rates, available housing, and recreation all play a role in new resident retention. But just as important, people will choose to stay in a community if they can make a personal connection and are made to feel welcomed and “at home.” And we need those who are adding to our community’s story by bringing diversity of thought, culture, heritage, ability, and experience to want to stay.
In FY 2022-’23, the Chamber’s strategies for reteaming more new resident workers include:
“You Belong In Billings” Campaign - We will partner with employers to identify new resident-workers (past two years) and connect them to their community and their scene. Employers and human resource professionals will be provided with a “toolkit” and checklist to help onboard new residents/employees to Billings and the region. Events will be held regularly, allowing for connections. Through our connections with new residents, we will conduct baseline studies and determine through data why people moved to Billings and why they chose to stay or leave.
Finding Your Community (People) - We will continue our focus on fostering a community that is welcoming to all via all Chamber avenues, including our programming, networks (NextGEN young professionals; Ag Committee; diversity, equity and inclusion events; Women’s Network, and Leadership Billings), public policy leadership, and through our “Please Be Kind” campaign. We will connect new resident-employees to individuals, groups, and activities such as cultural, heritage, and lifestyle groups (human relations coalition, LGBTQ+ community, Mexican-American community, and others).
Finding Your Scene (Places and Experiences) - We must build a stronger quality of place by focusing on our built environment. Billings needs more facilities like a South Side Sports and Recreation Center and well-managed facilities (such as private management of MetraPark) that appeal to individual passions and family activities. Growth, improvement, and funding for our trails and parks infrastructure (completion of the Marathon Loop, Coulson Park) are essential, as are downtown catalytic projects.
Policy and People Matter - Many decisions that determine the quality of life, funding, and resident retention require support from our state legislature and local government. We must all be engaged in the process of selecting representatives to serve us who are business-friendly and community-minded.
Elections matter, and the Chamber will host candidate forums for members to attend, publish candidate questionnaire answers for members to read, and issue endorsements to ensure our members hear from candidates and us on local and state legislative elections.
Advance Quality of Life; Grow Workforce and Develop Leaders; Lead Visitor Growth; Influence Public Policy; Spark Success in Members; Exceed Organizational Expectations
Business Advocacy: Lead local, state, and federal legislative issues impacting business and our quality of life; and proactively support business-friendly elected leaders that drive those policies;
Tourism Marketing: Promote Billings and the region as a preferred destination for visitors, business travelers, and sporting events;
Connect & Grow Business: Provide opportunities for our members relating to education, leadership development, networking, and value-added services.
The Billings Chamber has received the highest award that a chamber can receive from the United States Chamber of Commerce: 5-Star Accreditation. Less than 1% of the 7,000 chambers in the U.S. have this designation. We are a non-profit representing and serving 1,120 members who employ about 48,000 people. The Board consists of community leaders representing small and large businesses and diverse business interests. We are governed by 19 board members led by the newly elected Chair of the Board, Julie Seedhouse, Century 21. We are staffed by 17 professionals who are enthused, engaged in the community, and full of great ideas and energy.