Chairman's Reflection on 2015

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December 16, 2015
As the 2015 Chairman of the Board, I want to express my appreciation to the North Chamber and Lead SA Board of Directors, volunteers, members, staff and community partners for your time, help and contributions that have made 2015 a year to remember. 
At the beginning of my tenure I vowed to focus on leadership development and public policy advocacy at the local and state levels. I believe that it is our duty to prepare the next generation of leaders through community awareness and involvement. Through the help of staff, board members and volunteers, the North Chamber has been an active voice advocating on your behalf for business-friendly initiatives that will supply security, growth, economic development and sustainability for our city’s future.
Opening Doors of Leadership Development
We understand the importance of mentoring succeeding generations in the workforce to ensure that there is no gap in leadership for our chamber and for our community at large. Over the past several years we have made a concentrated effort to integrate our city’s most involved young professionals into our board of directors and leadership roles. Their participation helps us identify potential areas where the North Chamber can have impact.
Towards the end of the year we asked our board members about their involvement and we found that the North Chamber board is exceptionally well-represented in the San Antonio community. Whether their involvement is in medicine, technology, infrastructure, philanthropy or sustainability, our board is involved in over sixty-five boards, commissions or committees outside their involvement with the North Chamber. Their positions range from appointments, volunteer and elected roles in organizations such as: Mission Verde, San Antonio Mobility Coalition, United Way, Alamo Area Council of Governments, Child Advocates of San Antonio, Texas Council of Engineering Laboratories, ARTS San Antonio, AVANCE, Northside and Northeast Independent School Districts, Mayor and County Judge Task Forces, UTSA Alumni Association and more.
Beyond involvement in our community, the North Chamber encourages our members to hone their leadership skills through our professional development programs and opportunities for engagement. This year, the North Chamber graduated 85 students from their nine-month, award-winning leadership and professional development academy, Leadership Lab. I know their employers join me in recognizing the dedication demonstrated by each of the participants as they return to their respective industries with new knowledge and perspective.
We continue to invest in the future with our Student Member program. Over 60 student members from local universities have joined various committees, gone to ribbon cuttings and attended networking events, all to prepare them to take an active role in the business community. At the beginning of the year, several of our UTSA undergraduate student members had the opportunity to introduce themselves at a board meeting and to network with some of our most involved members at the Annual Gala.
In 2015, the North Chamber’s Ambassadors have welcomed over 40 businesses to the San Antonio community through ribbon cuttings, grand openings and ground breaking ceremonies. They have hosted numerous networking and educational events including a brand new PowerFit Wellness Expo at the Phil Hardberger Park featuring Councilman Ron Nirenberg of District 8 and Nature Preserve Officer for Hardberger Park, Gale Gallegos.
A Voice for Business
The North Chamber is your voice. We advocate on behalf of the business community on issues that directly and indirectly impact job growth and economic development. This includes good governance, public infrastructure, education and fees on business. In 2015 we broadened our outreach to public officials and saw great results from our efforts.  
On February 19, 2015 a group of North Chamber Board members, volunteers and staff went to Austin to meet with state representatives and senators in the North Chamber’s very first Legislative Day. Two big issues on our 84th Session Legislative Position were tuition revenues bonds for our local universities, and increased highway funding. The legislature approved the issuance of tuition revenue bonds to construct new facilities at UTSA, the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and Texas A&M San Antonio. The legislature also passed Proposition 7, a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in November, which authorizes the allocation of billions of dollars for highways in Texas.
As I announced at Gala last year, we strongly supported a Charter Amendment to pay our City Council and Mayor a living wage. In May the voters of San Antonio approved the charter amendment, encouraging stability and consistency in our largest local government.
The North Chamber fought against a proposed increase to the City’s storm water fee that would have resulted in vastly higher monthly fees for many of our members. Some commercial property owners would have seen their fees go from a few hundred dollars each month to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. We worked with the mayor, city council and staff to come up with a more reasonable fee that is actually lower in some cases. The new fee was adopted as part of the City’s budget in September.
Business Resources
Our programming in 2015 was a reflection of our diverse membership and their various areas of interest and needs.
In an effort to educate our members on the wide variety of resources available to them, we added a monthly Member Benefits Orientation for new and existing members interested in exploiting their digital marketing benefits and involvement opportunities. The North SA Chamber has advanced member software that gives our membership instant access in posting news articles, events, press releases, jobs, Hot Deals, MarketSpace items and RFP’s to our website by logging into our Member Information Center portal. In 2015, this orientation increased engagement by marketing professionals and participation of business employees on our committees and boards.
We connected our members with elected leaders though programs like the State of the County, the Mayor’s Vision, a City Council reception and an address from the Lieutenant Governor. Our Technology professionals continued their monthly CIO Breakfasts and Annual luncheon program while adding a bi-annual Optimizing Business Series and brand new, monthly Technology Interest Group meeting. The Enterprising Women’s Conference featured a full-day, professional development conference and the presentation of ATHENA Leadership Awards to three outstanding, women leaders in the categories of ATHENA Young ProfessionalATHENA Leadership and ATHENA Organizational Leadership. Financial experts shared best practices at quarterly CFO Forums, and managers and HR professionals received the latest labor guidelines at the annual Employment Law Update. We presented the Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. Salute to Excellence Award to Robin and Ernesto Ancira for their contributions in the areas of community, business achievement, leadership and philanthropy. We recognized 12 small businesses for their leadership through the presentation of the Small Business Leaders Awards – adding several new categories this year including lifetime achievement, conquering adversity, mentorship, and franchisee (2015 SBLA Award Recipients). We have continued to educate and engage our small business members through robust speakers and community presentations at the monthly Networking Breakfast series.
In addition, we have continued our collaboration with IBC Bank and area chambers to deliver SA Conversations, which are a series of discussions for the business community to hear from elected officials - beyond the Texas delegation - addressing critical issues that affect enterprise.
Be a part of it.
My goal as Chairman in 2015 was that the North Chamber would take on the issues that that most affected the local business community. I take great pride in knowing that, working together, we accomplished that task.
This organization stands strong because of the support of more than 1,200 member businesses, volunteers and community partners and will only continue to do so with your engagement. Join me in supporting Gary’s Vision for 2016, and please continue to be a part of planning for the future of this great city. Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving as your Chairman, for your membership and for all that you do to keep Bexar County strong.