Planning for Success: Billings Chamber 2021-'22 Priority Initiatives
by John Brewer, President/CEO
If last year was a year of discovery, innovation, and creativity driven by necessity due to changes in consumer behavior from COVID, this year is shaping up to be a year of embracing what was learned and excelling in "the new norm." In large part, it’s a year of getting back to basics, figuring out what those new “basics” consist of, and getting back to business with new consumer demands and expectations.
For the Chamber, the next 12 months will be focused on securing what is essential for our community's growth and economic success; things like public safety, education, and quality of place through our built environment are at the top of the list.
Overall, the Chamber’s long-term strategic plan consists of:
- Advancing our quality of place;
- Developing workers and leaders;
- Leading visitor growth;
- Influencing public policy;
- Sparking member success; and
- Exceeding organizational expectations.
Focusing on Public Safety
A business survey conducted by the Chamber in May 2021 shows 89% of member businesses have been directly impacted by crime in the past 12 months. With violent crime citywide growing by over 70% this year (and homicides increasing by over 300%), and a significant uptick in property crime, it is time we, as a community, invest in a solutions-based safety levy to address this issue at its roots.
These statistics directly impact our economy and many of your businesses in various ways, from talent attraction limitations to hard costs in security, repairs, lost clients, and more. Last year, voters passed a maintenance levy to simply retain the current and insufficient levels of safety funding, ensuring the city did not have to cut police officers. At the time, the City Council also stated that this was a stop-gap solution, and they would need to come back to the voters in a year to request funds for a solutions-based levy. The levy that the Chamber is pushing to see on a November ballot will include funding for additional police and civilian personnel, substance abuse and mental health, and firefighting support.
Business owners and leaders also told us they need support in growing and cultivating their workforce. To develop a stronger workforce of the future, we will be enhancing our young professionals network (NextGEN), investing more time and resources in sustainable community diversity, equality and inclusion effort, and enhancing our Leadership Billings and Women’s Network programs.
Billings has good jobs available in energy, finance, healthcare, agriculture, hospitality, and other industries. However, we lack in our built environment: affordable housing and community amenities that lure families to relocate to Billings through a strong quality of place offering. Advancing our trail system by creating the Marathon Loop and continuing work on Safe Routes to School, our parks (like Coulson along the Yellowstone River and others), and downtown catalytic projects will help retain and recruit our workforce of tomorrow.
So many of the decisions that move us forward require support from our City Council. Therefore it is important that we are all engaged in the process of selecting representatives to serve us who are business-friendly and community-minded. 89% of our business members stated that it is important for the Chamber to help get business-friendly candidates elected to public office. Elections matter and the Chamber will interview candidates and provide the business community with information on where they stand on issues important to our economy.
Free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit are strong in Billings. Through continued investment in our community and support of local businesses, we all have a part to play in Billings' success.
Look Local: City Council and Mayoral Elections
It’s that time of year again. An important part of our culture that many Americans participate in. Now, I know what you’re thinking: obviously, I'm talking about May the 4th (be with you). Well, not quite. As important as those dates are - two that I celebrate enthusiastically - I'm referring to our upcoming elections.