After a slew of recent successes, the 145-year-old San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is revamping its mission and taking an increasingly aggressive role in politics, policy and advocacy for business interests.
“We went out and had Nuffer, Smith, Tucker do a survey of members — about 150 current, 150 past and 150 nonmembers — and asked them what they wanted to see out of a chamber,” said Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the chamber in a video interview at The Daily Transcript, referring to the San Diego public relations firm.
“And what they said is we want aggressive policy by the chamber, we want aggressive advocacy, and we want to see you get political candidates elected who are business friendly.”
The previous statement was for the chamber “to be the most influential business network, advocate and resource for growing commerce in the San Diego region.”
The newly branded chamber has five goals: to have a contemporary, relevant membership and communications organization; to be the leading policy voice for business in the region; to be the primary champion of cross-border business and a strong supporter of military/defense and other traded economies; to be the hub of regional business organizations, creating collaboration; and to be the organization that is continuously structuring to execute.
Sanders pointed to the chamber’s role in the mayoral election of Kevin Faulconer and the defeat of the linkage fee and the Barrio Logan community plan update as recent successes and examples of what San Diego can expect more of.
“What you’ll see in very quick order is obviously the minimum wage — that’ll be coming, we have until Sept. 17 to gather signatures,” Sanders said.
“We’ll also be very active in getting Chris Cate elected to the city council so that we have a balanced City Council. When you have a balanced City Council instead of the imbalance we have now, they have to work with each other and they come up with better policy.”
While Sanders acknowledged that stepping up the chamber’s political role has the potential to disengage some businesses and partners, he said survey results were stark.
“In the surveys that we did we found, almost to a business, they were very concerned about the political environment and the advocacy side, and that’s the reason we’re making the move to let them know we’re going to be very strong, very aggressive and we’ll use the political clout we have to help out.”
Another risk the chamber runs with taking a harder-line stance on issues of importance is overemphasizing the business areas where San Diego can stand to improve.
“I think the risk is that we alienate people who we don’t want to alienate and that we set the tone that the business environment’s horrible, when the business environment could be better, and we’re working to make it better and that’s one of our major goals, but San Diego’s still a great place to do business,” he said.
“And we want to make sure we’re not always on defense like we are with these referendums — we’d rather be on offense helping to create policies in the city and the county and other cities in this region, as well as the state, that will make business thrive.”
Alison Philips, communications manager for the chamber, said this isn’t the first time the organization has undergone a logo and direction change.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have 145 years of records and historical knowledge, but we know this is the third logo change since the early 1990s,” Philips said. “And it’s the first serious repositioning and refocusing of efforts since 1999, when Jessie Knight came in as president and did a similar repositioning.”
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Aug. 26, 2015 -- Executive Editor George Chamberlin speaks with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber, about the Chargers stadium woes, challenges small businesses face and the Chamber's position on the drought.
April 27, 2015 -- Executive Editor George Chamberlin speaks with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber, about the chamber's recent trip to Mexico, the chamber's recent endorsements of candidates for local office, and the congressional lunch.
Feb. 11, 2015 -- George Chamberlin sits down with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber, to discuss the chamber's accomplishments in 2014, goals for 2015 and the new Chargers stadium task force.
Sept. 11, 2014 -- George Chamberlin speaks with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, about Sanders' trip to Washington, D.C., where the delegation he led talked to congressional leaders about the pure water program, border relations, and more.
Aug. 28, 2014 -- George Chamberlin discusses the details of the San Diego Regional Chamber's new strategic plan and updated brand with chamber President and CEO Jerry Sanders.