2014 BEST Chamber of Commerce: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce
Author: Elaine B. Holtz
May, 2014 Issue
“The chamber has helped me grow as a person as well as grow my business.” —Chuck McPherson
“We always stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before, even as we work to make the chamber better and better,” says Jonathan Coe, president/CEO of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was founded in 1906 by Frank Doyle of Exchange Bank, along with other business leaders, to help Santa Rosa businesses rebuild after the earthquake. “The mission and goals of the chamber are still the same: to support, promote and advocate for our members and create a vibrant, sustainable economy in our region.” With a budget of $2.7 million, a staff of 18 full-time and eight part-time employees, a volunteer pool of 300 individuals and membership of more than 900 businesses, it’s actively achieving its mission.
Coe came to the chamber in 2009 and is proud of the programs offered to its members. He believes the reason it’s been voted the BEST over the years is because of all the ways it makes a positive difference for its members and the community.
To help with job growth and awareness of how to make that happen, the Building Economic Success Together (BEST) program was formed in 2011 under the umbrella of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. Its strategic plan calls for the creation of more than 2,500 direct jobs and 4,100 total jobs over a five-year period. Coe is proud the chamber is facilitating this process and believes this is another reason it’s unique.
Six years ago, the chamber started the Young Professional Network (YPN), a program that now has more than 300 members ages 25 to 45. YPN gives them access to networking opportunities with prominent industry leaders and ambitious peers as well as resources and events to foster professional development.
“We believe this young generation is the future for our community and our economy, and the goal is to keep them here, as they’ll be the backbone that will help our community move forward,” says Coe.
Coe is looking forward to extending the chamber’s Mike Hauser Algebra Academy t more students. “This is a tremendous program and has a possibility of making a big difference and will help move the needle on graduation rates for students who speak English as a second language,” he says.
Completely customized to a company’s needs, the WHEEL program (Worksite Held Employee English Learning) involves 32 hours of instruction adapted to fit workers’ language levels and industry-specific language skills. Employees benefit by improving their communication skills, businesses experience higher rates of production and customer satisfaction and the entire community benefits from an enhanced workforce. Costeaux French Bakery is one of the companies to take advantage of the WHEEL program, “All around, it’s a win-win situation,” says General Manager Will Seppi. “It’s an investment I’ll definitely make again.”
Chuck McPherson, a partner at Leap Solutions Group LLC, a business management consulting firm, is on the Leadership Santa Rosa (LSR) program’s steering committee and has been a member since 2003. He attributes the chamber’s success to its pro-business attitude and for going the extra mile for its members. The Leadership Santa Rosa program encourages greater community involvement by identifying and developing effective Sonoma County leaders who will help create a spirit of cooperation for the resolution of community challenges. McPherson concludes, “The chamber has helped me grow as a person as well as grow our business.”
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