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Chamber pros are pivotal figures in shaping the business community but how does that equate to shaping the physical infrastructure and landscape of their areas? Through strategic collaboration with developers and stakeholders, you can play a central role in showcasing your locality as the prime destination for building and development, thus fostering robust economic growth and community prosperity. But it requires stepping past ribbon cuttings and forging broader relationships.

Why Should the Chamber Get Involved in Development?

First, getting involved in local development is not about taking on financial risk or the zoning board (although that can be a part). When we examine the importance of chamber involvement in development, we’re referring to the interconnection between work and housing/quality of life and how your community needs an attractive amount of development to bring jobs to the area.

However, it is a delicate balance between smart development and retaining the charm and green space your current residents value. Development may also fall under your advocacy actions as businesses come to you to ask for assistance in zoning troubles, City leases, or legislative initiatives to help them grow.

There are several compelling reasons to take up development work, each of which contributes to creating quality of life initiatives and making the community more attractive to businesses:

  • Economic Growth: Development projects, whether they involve infrastructure improvements, commercial real estate development, or mixed-use developments, have the potential to stimulate economic growth within a community. Chamber pros often play a crucial role in facilitating these projects because of their tie-ins to fostering job creation, increasing property values, and generating revenue for local businesses and entities.
  • Business Attraction and Retention: A thriving business environment is essential for the long-term prosperity of a community. By actively engaging in development initiatives, you can help create an environment that is conducive to business growth and success. You might advocate for improvements to transportation infrastructure, support zoning changes that promote commercial development, or facilitate partnerships between local businesses and developers. By doing so, you make the community more attractive to businesses.
  • Quality of Life Initiatives: Development projects can have a significant impact on the overall quality of life for residents. For example, investing in parks, green spaces, and recreational facilities can enhance residents' well-being and contribute to a sense of community. Similarly, improvements to transportation infrastructure, such as bike lanes or public transit systems, can make it easier for residents to access employment opportunities, healthcare services, and cultural amenities. You can advocate for these types of projects and work with developers to ensure they align with the community's quality of life vision.
  • Community Revitalization: Development can play a crucial role in revitalizing blighted or underutilized areas. By repurposing vacant buildings, revitalizing (or creating/branding) commercial corridors, and creating mixed-use developments, you can breathe new life into neighborhoods and downtown areas, attracting residents, businesses, and visitors. You can work with developers, local government agencies, and stakeholders to identify opportunities for revitalization to meet the needs of the community.
  • Sustainable Growth: You can play a role in promoting sustainable development practices that support long-term growth, preserve natural resources, and protect the environment. For instance, you could advocate for green building standards, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, or support smart growth principles to encourage compact, walkable areas. By embracing sustainable development practices, communities can create a more resilient and attractive environment for businesses and residents alike.

By actively engaging in development initiatives, you can help shape the future of your community and create a vibrant and prosperous environment for growth. But development activities are not without their downsides.

The Challenges of Chamber Involvement in Development

While there are numerous benefits to being involved in development, there are also potential downsides and challenges you may encounter:

  • Conflict of Interest: You may face conflicts of interest when advocating for development projects that benefit certain businesses or developers with whom you have personal or professional relationships. This can undermine credibility and integrity and erode public trust in advocacy efforts. It’s critical that all involvement be weighed against possible (or perceived) conflicts of interest.
  • Community Opposition: Development projects often stir controversy and opposition within communities, particularly if they involve changes to the build environment, displacement of residents or businesses, or concerns about environmental impacts. You may find yourself caught between competing interests (or members), facing pressure from developers, businesses, and residents with divergent perspectives and priorities.
  • Environmental Concerns: Development projects can have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction, water pollution, and increased traffic congestion. You may encounter resistance from environmental advocacy groups and concerned citizens who oppose development projects that threaten natural resources or contribute to urban sprawl.
  • Gentrification and Displacement: Development projects have the potential to exacerbate gentrification and displacement, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. You may face criticism for promoting development initiatives that prioritize economic growth and revitalization at the expense of affordable housing, cultural preservation, and social equity. Many chambers have faced challenges post-COVID with new (luxury) developments outpacing incomes forcing many residents to move to find more affordable housing.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Development projects are subject to complex regulatory requirements at all levels. They may encounter bureaucratic hurdles, permitting delays, and legal challenges that hinder the progress of development projects and increase costs for developers and businesses. Developers may naturally turn to the chamber for help, placing you in a difficult position with other stakeholders.
  • Economic Risk: You may assume financial risk when advocating for development projects that require public funding or incentives to proceed. If development projects fail to deliver the anticipated economic benefits or generate sufficient revenue to offset public investment, you may face criticism or disgruntle an elected official.
  • ​Reputation Damage: If you are perceived as overly aggressive or unethical in your advocacy for development projects you may experience negative publicity or public outcry, which can tarnish the chamber’s reputation and undermine the effectiveness of economic development and community revitalization programs.

What Role Does the Chamber Play in Community Development?

There are many ways a chamber can be involved in development. You might work closely with developers to identify and promote prime locations for new construction and redevelopment projects. Some chamber pros are called upon to leverage their knowledge of the community's needs, resources, and potential by offering insights and guidance to developers seeking promising opportunities.

You might be asked to market, support, and/or promote efforts to showcase your area as the ideal locale for building and development. Through targeted advertising campaigns, site visits, and promotional materials, you could highlight the unique advantages and amenities that make your community a desirable destination for investors and developers alike.

In addition to marketing initiatives, some chamber pros play a crucial role in facilitating the development process by providing valuable resources and support to developers. From navigating zoning regulations and permitting processes to connecting developers with local contractors, suppliers, and service providers, you likely have the connections to streamline the development process, ensuring a smooth and efficient path from conception to completion.

Some chamber professionals collaborate with developers to envision and implement projects that align with the community's long-term vision and goals such as mixed-use spaces. By fostering dialogue and collaboration between developers, local government agencies, and community stakeholders, you can ensure that development projects are thoughtfully designed and implemented to enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses alike.

These types of projects can contribute to the physical transformation and revitalization of your community, creating vibrant, sustainable spaces that attract investment, talent, and opportunity. As champions of economic development and community prosperity, you play an indispensable role in shaping the environment and laying the foundation for a brighter future.

But physical development isn’t the only role you likely play.

You probably are already a critical part of the emotional side of community development and fostering a sense of unity and purpose among residents and businesses. This foundation helps create an environment for attracting developers who will then work on the community infrastructure/physical development component.

Additional Types of Chamber Development Work

You can leverage your expertise, network, and resources to build a stronger, more vibrant community. Through collaborative initiatives and strategic partnerships, you can bridge the gap between public and private sectors. That way, you can harness the collective power of stakeholders to address pressing challenges and unlock new opportunities for growth.

The Voice of Business (Development)

One of the primary functions of chamber pros is to advocate for the interests of business. By serving as their voice in matters of policy, regulation, and economic development, you ensure that the needs and concerns of the business community are heard and addressed. Through lobbying efforts, policy analysis, and grassroots initiatives, you can create an environment conducive to business success and innovation, laying the groundwork for sustainable (and smart) economic growth.

Collaboration

Additionally, chamber pros play a crucial role in fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing among businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Through networking events, workshops, and educational programs, you can facilitate meaningful connections and exchange of ideas, empowering stakeholders to learn from each other, collaborate on shared goals, and drive collective action for the greater good.

Community Involvement

Chamber pros also actively promote community engagement and civic participation. By organizing community events, volunteer opportunities, and community education programs, you encourage residents to take an active role in shaping the future of their neighborhoods and contributing to the common good. These initiatives foster a sense of belonging, pride, and ownership, strengthening social cohesion and resilience.

Diversity

As champions of diversity, you create an inclusive and welcoming environment where all members of the community can thrive. By promoting diversity in leadership, advocating for equitable access to resources and opportunities, and fostering cultural awareness and understanding, you are dismantling barriers and creating pathways for underrepresented groups to succeed and contribute to the development and prosperity of the community.

Chamber pros can play a multifaceted role in developing stronger, more resilient communities. Your efforts can inspire and empower stakeholders to collaborate, innovate, and drive positive change.

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