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Opinion: Tahoe’s business landscape is changing (opinion)

B Gorman
TAHOE CHAMBER
Tribune Opinion Columnist

The Tahoe Chamber team recently returned from the 20th annual Western Association of Chamber Executives conference. We’re reinvigorated from the many ideas and relationships garnered from key notes and breakouts, as we interacted with 425 of our peers. This year was especially meaningful, as I was honored to serve as conference chair, and thus have been working with the conference committee over the past year to ensure it held meaning for each attendee and their chamber.

Given the dramatic pace at which our society evolves, I requested a theme of future thinking, a “New Horizons” theme featuring keynote speakers renowned as futurists and critical thinkers. We opened with Mick Fleming, CEO of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives; he shared the results of their research publication, “Horizons Initiative: Chambers 2025, Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce.” Mick shared insights into what lays ahead for chambers, businesses and communities. The takeaways were so compelling that I wanted to share a few of the high-level concepts with our community, as we too must adapt to the shift happening nationally and globally.

THE NATURE OF BELONGING AND GATHERING

Group involvement is hardwired; we have an innate need to belong. Maslow insists in his hierarchy of needs that humans crave a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, including organizations related to their work lives. Yet, generational angst leads some to believe the future holds less interpersonal connection. Millennials are often perceived as being too connected to technology, unable to put their phone away for some old-fashioned human contact. Conference speaker Rebecca Ryan, a futurist and economist, informed us that nearly every study on preferences and future behaviors of millennials concludes that they will be more — not less — likely to reach out, find connection in their communities, and become involved in causes. However, businesses and organizations won’t be able to engage millennials using their old tactics. Tahoe Chamber has had success in involving millennials and helping them build relationships in the community through our Leadership Lake Tahoe and Ambassador programs. We’ve invited young professionals to serve on the board and committees and value their input as intellectual equals. Engaging this generation will be of vital importance to business and community sustainability.

COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY

Indicators predict that communication tools of the future will be increasingly easier to use, but in other ways more complex. Communication will be both more individualized and broader reaching at the same time. Consumers are looking for the sound behind the noise. Producing information that is analytical and filters what your followers might find elsewhere will prove your businesses is a credible source, building trust and sales.

SCARCITY AND ABUNDANCE

One way to illustrate the impacts of scarcity on future local economies is to identify those of the present. In California, it’s not hard to see the impacts of water scarcity. In our 2015 Membership Survey, the No. 1 challenge business owners identified were labor force issues. The chamber is working in collaboration with Lake Tahoe Unified School District and Lake Tahoe Community College on an adult education plan, and with Tahoe Prosperity Center on a workforce analysis. On March 15-16, we will be visiting many of you during a business walk to collect real-time data to inform the strategies to be deployed. Such strategies will require us to speak from the perspective of abundance related to our region as we seek to attract, retain and train tomorrow’s workforce.

POPULATION SHIFT

The growth of non-white and multiracial populations in America, along with the aging white population, will result in rapid increases in diversity in the marketplace, polling place and neighborhoods. Business and community leaders may have a false impression that they can thrive without diverse representation, but if they don’t address the inevitability of racial-cultural change over the next decade, their staff, customer base and success will be at risk. An inclusive community is more attractive to international talent seeking positions in the U.S. or to minority job seekers relocating. Talented, skilled, young adults are no longer choosing the job over the place. Rebecca Ryan asserted that people are more likely to choose the place first and the job second, and are increasingly settling into diverse communities that not only welcome, but include the voices of minority populations.

These influences will undoubtedly change how we run your chamber and how you run your business, and how we’ll be involved in our community in the decade ahead. The future is uncertain, but at the chamber we see value in understanding the challenges we might face and positioning ourselves to tackle them on behalf of our local businesses for the prosperity of our community.

If you are interested in reading the full Horizons document or want information on the speakers we heard, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bgorman@tahoechamber.org.

“B” Gorman, J.D., A.C.E. is the president/CEO of the Tahoe Chamber.


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