July 10, 2017
The Chamber as a Champion... for a Stronger Community
What does that exactly mean, a Champion for a stronger community? It is one of the WHYs behind a chamber’s existence.
“Champion,” it’s the third “C” word in this 3-week long blog series in the Message from the CEO. Chambers are called to be warriors in the fight for community progress, and sometimes that means doing hard work. An example is tackling the community issues that hold a city back from being a community where people want to live. Communities where people do not want to live are those with high poverty, crime, run-down neighborhoods or communities hopelessly plagued with a chronic lack of good paying jobs. What organization watches those negative conditions and works to turn them around? The Lodi Chamber, that’s who. Why? We want new businesses to come to Lodi, and we want to hire people to create more wealth throughout the community.
At the end of 2014, your chamber launched Vision 2020, an economic look forward for Lodi in five key areas. What we found was and still is very challenging (some would say scary), but also the same five areas hold great opportunity if we are willing to work hard for improvement and not settle for the same old things and ways of doing things. The 70 people, divided into five groups of a dozen citizens in each group, created a vision for Lodi in each area of economic opportunity. They created a vision, strategies on how to achieve the vision, and action steps to stay on track for the coming 5 years. About half of the fifty-five action steps have been achieved, are in progress or have been deemed unachievable. Only 5 were scrapped, but new ones have taken their place. Great progress is being made and change...positive change, is afoot.
I’ll share two examples of being a community Champion: The Lodi Jobs Academy and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD for short).
First, I will discuss The Lodi Jobs Academy.
A Champion wants to come to the rescue and help those in need. Such is the Workforce Development area, one of our five areas of economic development.
Young people need an education that prepares them for a job, a good family-supporting job. Businesses have an aging workforce and tens of millions of retiring baby-boomers need to be replaced. But whoever gets their jobs must have the needed skills. Where do they get them?
Our Lodi Industrial Group developed a specific curriculum for future employees. The Lodi Unified School District is our great partner that will teach the classes the employers need their future workforce to know. Businesses will also do classroom lectures, raise awareness about Lodi jobs through plant tours, job shadowing and job fairs… all coordinated and designed by the Chamber. It’s our job to work to create a stronger local economy and we champion that cause!
Without those students, we have no future workforce. Without them businesses will go elsewhere to find trained, knowledgeable workers. If that happens, Lodi loses. However, Lodi will not lose; we will win because that is the Chamber’s goal, our business’ goal and the students’ goal.
That is why we are often referred to as a champion for our community. Another one of our community efforts is called Asset Based Community Development. This program is specifically designed to be resident driven and led by the community we are looking to revitalize: The Heritage District, or what used to be referred to as, "The East Side". The Heritage District is Lodi's most concentrated area of poverty, and in September of 2016, The Lodi Chamber decided to try to do something to spark change. After a 2 day training workshop that brought together residents from all sides of Lodi, 5 community groups of people who had never worked together before were formed. In Cycle 1 of this program, each of these groups were given comprehensive leadership and community outreach training, 2 of the 5 groups were given $500 mini-grants to go on to complete a community garden project and a public art mural project in the Heritage District (to be completed by the end of this summer), and the remaining 3 of the 5 groups were plugged into city and organization resources to separately continue their projects over a longer term.
Click this link to see our ABCD update video: ABCD-Love Your Block Cycle 1
YOUR Chamber is committed to being a CHAMPION for YOUR community; for all residents of Lodi. We are working towards a stronger economic future for Lodi, and in order to see that happen, that includes investing in the future leaders of Lodi. We hope you will join us in our work as champions for a stronger community...for more information on getting involved in this work, contact our Communications Director, Carmen Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will point you in the right direction to join in!
President & CEO
Lodi District Chamber of Commerce