Chamber Corner

‘We have met the enemy and he is us’

By Todd J. Tranum

President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

As President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association I sometimes get asked, “What are you doing to bring in new business?” This question may stem from a misperception of our role. We are a privately funded, member driven organization and our primary mission is to serve our business members and to work toward creating an environment that is fertile for economic growth and prosperity.

Our members tell us the top four issues they face are high taxes (especially property taxes), the need for a qualified workforce, high insurance costs and the need for more business. As we strive to be member-centric, the Chamber and MAST provide programs and initiatives to address these crucial issues. In addition, when we are asked to help with an economic development project that involves investment in our communities we lend a hand.

On the issue of reducing property taxes, our focus is on cutting the cost of government, mainly through efficiencies and through expansion of the tax base. Yet these processes often prove to be complicated, and sometimes due to either political posturing or misinformation, we collectively become our own worst enemy.

On two occasions in the past year our organization has issued written or verbal apologies to private investors who sought to purchase, operate or develop property in Chautauqua County. These organizations were willing to invest millions of dollars in private funding into our community. These investments could increase the tax base by about one million dollars. But the individuals representing these organizations were treated so badly in public forums by local officials and by the general public that it was an embarrassment for our county. Discussions in these forums did not rest on the merits of the projects and instead became attacks on the developer, the organizations they represent and an assault on private enterprise.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the merits of the projects were flawed, and after a second look the deal simply didn’t work out. Had these developers been treated with courtesy, kindness and respect there might have been a possibility that they would consider other investment opportunities in the county, or at least walk away saying, “The deal did not work out but that was a good group of people to work with.” Developers talk to other developers; and for better or worse communities earn reputations.

It is incumbent upon us and our elected officials to establish and maintain a reputation as a community that supports economic growth and welcomes development and new jobs. We complain about few opportunities for our children, about taxes, and about the lack of opportunity. Let’s take a moment to relish the great assets we have and embrace private investment in Chautauqua County.

Doors Open Jamestown is Jan. 19

As you ease back into your regular schedule after a busy holiday season, give yourself a gift – take some time to visit our hometown treasures. The Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce will once again present Doors Open Jamestown, a free day at your local museums and attractions, on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Fenton History Center, Jamestown Audubon Society and Nature Center, the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, the Robert H. Jackson Center, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the Reg Lenna Civic Center and the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame will all be open for free tours and other offers. Also participating this year will be the James Prendergast Library, Infinity Performing Arts, the Lucile Wright Aviation Museum, and the newly restored Erie-Lackawanna Train Station. Prize drawings will be held at the attraction venues for $50 Shoptauqua Gift Checks and an item from the attractions’ gift shop. The museums will also be offering discounts in their gift shops. In addition, a number of downtown restaurants will feature specials during this event.

Doors Open is an international event that focuses on encouraging local residents to take advantage of their area attractions. Locally, the event is in its 8th year. Approximately 2,100 residents and visitors took part last January.

Sign up for ActiveRewards

Many of us start a new year with a fitness goal, and for those enrolled in Univera health insurance products through the Chamber of Commerce Bright Choices exchange, you may have an extra incentive to get or stay in shape this year cash back! ActiveUnivera is a rewards program that makes it easy to receive cash back for simple healthy lifestyle decisions. You can earn up to $1,000 per family, or $500 for an individual, each year just for doing healthy things that fit into your daily routine; things like working in the yard, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking the dog. To learn more, visit www.univerahealthcare.com and click the link for ActiveRewards. It’s easy to get started and you can get cash back just for working to meet your fitness goals this year.