From the President’s Desk: Decide The Date

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For nearly 100 years, your Chamber has cultivated Sarasota’s prosperity and quality of life through our members’ business leadership and action. As we enter 2018, that tradition continues. Business leadership, through The Chamber, focuses on two areas: opportunities and problems. It identifies opportunities and removes the problems that would impede them. It also identifies problems and finds opportunities to solve them. Sarasota has a problem, and we are presenting an opportunity to solve it.

The foundation of a representative democracy is rooted in the principle of voter participation. Our democracy suffers when nearly 80% of voters either do not or cannot participate. That is exactly what is happening in the city of Sarasota and the community deserves better.

For decades, the city of Sarasota has held its municipal elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Those elections tend to draw a voter turnout at or around 20%. During ordinary elections, the turnout is two or three times that.

In the last city election, held in May of 2017, just less than 23% of city voters participated. In the last general election, held in November of 2016, almost 72% of city voters participated. More than 18,000 additional ballots were cast by city voters during the ordinary election.

Interestingly, the city pays additional dollars to hold these off-cycle elections. Each spring election costs the city upwards of $100,000. The city can participate in ordinary, fall elections for free. Business principles wouldn’t have you paying for less than what you could otherwise get for free, and our community shouldn’t either.

Furthermore, what the data shows us is that special, spring elections have a dilutive effect on certain subsets of voters. Along with an overall increase in voter participation, a move to ordinary election cycles would see a significant increase in the composition amongst African-American, Hispanic, and under-30 voters.

In order to move elections to coincide with ordinary elections, the issue must be placed on a ballot for voters to decide whether or not they would like to move the dates. In order for voters to be given that opportunity, 10% of voters must petition the city to do so. It is that opportunity that we are seeking to provide through the Decide the Date initiative. Alongside a number of community partners, we are diligently working to deliver voters the opportunity to choose when they wish to participate in local elections.

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It is through your Chamber that this community can work towards being proud of its civic engagement. That, after all, is a quality of life issue and your Chamber stands at the forefront cultivating our quality of life. I encourage you to visit DecideTheDate.com for information and updates on this critical, community initiative. I ask that you reach out to me with any questions you might have. I hope that you will find ways to further support your Chamber as we seek to solve this problem.

Kevin Cooper, Chamber President


The article is taken from the January 2018 Bridge Magazine.

To read more from this issue, click here.

January 2018

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From the President’s Desk: Contact and Connection

 

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Kevin Cooper, President | CEO

There is a significant chasm between contact and connection. However, many times the two are either confused or used synonymously. The key is often that, at least for many service-based organizations, focus and success are dependent on not just contacting but connecting with stakeholders, including both customers and end-users. Confusing a contact with a connection, in this case, can lead one to be misguided or aimless. It is with this understanding that my first 90-days as President|CEO have been largely focused on connecting with as many stakeholders in the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce as possible.

 

This focus is particularly relevant to chambers of commerce in that we are membership-owned organizations. At its best, The Chamber is little other than a manifestation of the vision that its members have for it.  While that manifestation may not be a measurable goal, it can certainly be linked directly to the achievement of those goals that are measurable. Without a connection to that vision, any hope of properly manifesting it can be lost.

So, what is the difference between a contact and a connection? For me, a contact is made anytime something is done or not done. To be certain, even the absence of something can be a contact. For example, a restauranteur will often pay close attention to what patrons do not order. By not doing something, the patron is creating a point of contact with that restauranteur.

Where a contact becomes a connection is when a response is elicited. Not all responses are positive, but a negative response can be better than a contact absent a connection. Responses can create a loop when the response is directly received by the person who initiated the contact, or an extension when the response is tangential and perhaps even unknown to the person who initiated the contact. In either case, the transition from contact to connection is where opportunity is created. When the restauranteur tweaks a menu based on what patrons are not ordering, an opportunity is created.

Your chamber is in the business of creating opportunities for building value and relationships. In our pursuit to promote, connect, and support your business, we rely on connections to inform us of those opportunities. The challenge, of course, is creating connections with the over 1300 members who invest in the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. So, while I’ve been working to connect with as many of you as I can, there is still a long way to go and I hope to ultimately create a continual connection loop whereby the process never ends.

That being the case, my goal for this column was to simply create another point of contact whereby I invite your feedback and the opportunity to meet with you. I excitedly look forward to the connection.


Blog Post by Kevin Cooper, President | CEO of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

LEAP to Louisville: a Recent Inter-County Visit with Local Leaders

Bridge 1In late-September, 35 community leaders traveled to Louisville, Kentucky as part of the Leadership Expedition to Accelerate Progress (LEAP). The trip, hosted by The Chamber’s Sarasota Tomorrow Initiative in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, serves as an opportunity for area leadership to learn more about the successes of peer and aspirational communities that might be emulated locally. As in years past, the Sarasota delegation included elected officials, City/County staff, local for-profit and non-profit CEOs, key education leadership, and other key civic and business stakeholders.

Insights gained from past trips have helped local groups collaborate to create the successful Precision Machining program at Suncoast Technical College, explore new public art efforts, launch the Talent4Tomorrow initiative to improve our region’s educational attainment and workforce development outcomes and create the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 effort to maximize that key area of our community.

In the sixth iteration of the inter-city best practice visit concept, Louisville was selected for the strides made in education & workforce development, waterfront reimagining, targeted cluster incubation and acceleration, place making, and tourism branding. While its economic output, unique assets, and population make the area more of an aspirational city, as opposed to a peer community, these types of areas still offer insight to numerous themes that could be adjusted to fit Sarasota’s local scale. Continue reading “LEAP to Louisville: a Recent Inter-County Visit with Local Leaders”

Congressional Update and Roundtable Discussion with Vern Buchanan

A feature by Kevin Cooper, Vice President of Public Policy for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

On a recent afternoon in September, over 40 key Chamber members and community leaders participated in a luncheon and roundtable discussion with United States Congressman Vern Buchanan. Not only does Buchanan represent the area’s interests in Washington, D.C., but he is a Longboat Key resident and former Chairman of the Board for The Chamber. Not long after seeing the President sign his Veterans Identification Card Act into law, Buchanan was in the area to share his thoughts and focus for the near future.

IMG_5702Earlier in the day, Buchanan met with a number of tax professions who represent corporations of all sizes. The Congressman shared with The Chamber group how he would like to see the tax code significantly simplified. Specifically, the length and complexity of conformity, he contended, is both challenging and costly for taxpayers. Buchanan also linked tax code concerns to budget deficits. Continue reading “Congressional Update and Roundtable Discussion with Vern Buchanan”