Today, I’m thinking about corporate citizenship. Yesterday, Monday, was our annual Golf Classic. I watched our amazing Chamber team welcome you, serve you, shuttle you, truly care about your unique experience of welcome. And then I got to spend the day driving the course, talking to members, welcoming guests, and thanking our sponsors. I am endlessly amazed by the team I get to work with and the people and organizations we serve.
It’s an extraordinary concept, corporate citizenship. It’s how a company aligns its actions with its declared values. It’s about contributing to a greater good, beyond personal or individual company benefit. I see this walked out every day within our team, our membership, within the employer community across this region. And I feel so proud to be a servant in this effort.
Yesterday I spoke with individuals who represent organizations large and small, and they cover the gamut. From logistics companies to assisted living facilities, to parking operations, bankers, attorneys, accountants, utilities, manufacturers… I met some fun young interns, reconnected with a few grizzled chamber veterans… and in the eyes and words of each was a passionate commitment to one another and to community.
I hope you feel proud too. Because your organizations fuel us. You fund the arts, the unsheltered, youth programs, our advocacy efforts. You serve on school boards, are high school coaches, foster parents, mentors, volunteers… Your organizations give you the time and opportunity to do so, and then you serve even beyond that.
So I feel good today; impressed by you; hopeful when I’ve felt just a little heavyhearted since end of Session this year. Thank you for walking out corporate citizenship every day, in your unique way.
See you in the trenches,
I am thinking about two meetings I had last week. In each, the question posed to me was: “how do I continue to grow my business?” One was focused more on getting the word out and the other more on navigating the strategy of his growth.
Together these two conversations are especially interesting because they illustrate a question I’ve been noodling on. What is the value of a chamber…. really?
I first met with the Second Chance guy. He is building a professional life and business after being incarcerated. Then I met with the Entrepreneur, who wanted to talk about his aspirations to break out and start his own company.
For both, my counsel was the same: show up and be open to what develops.
Objection: “I don’t have time to build relationships.”
My response: “You don’t have time NOT to.”
Let me explain.
I think back to my own journey of professional development in this region. I spent 10 years working in Minneapolis, then came to my first job in St. Paul in 2006, with zero connections to leverage and zero power of my own that required others to need me. I struggled socially, but I didn’t think it mattered because I thought working hard would carry me. And, I figured, I’d meet people soon enough.
Business was good but I wasn’t connecting with people very well. I felt isolated. Through a rather circuitous journey, I’ve learned three things that have transformed my professional life:
They seem like easy things, but all require a release of some kind. Power, competition, control. The benefits have been extraordinary. My relationships at this stage of my life are richer than they’ve ever been. My friendships are real, trustworthy. And my empathy has expanded as well.
And all this was learned through my 20+ years of engagement with a chamber of commerce.
So, back to the Second Chance Guy and the Entrepreneur. Again, for both my counsel was the same: show up and be open to what develops. People need to know who you are before they are willing to trust you with their business. Your Chamber facilitates introductions, relationship building. We provide the opportunity, the platform as it were, for you to step in and engage.
And for those of you who are “full,” who have built your network and don’t feel the need to show up, please - invest in our work and the growth of your newer employees by reminding them that your chamber membership applies to EVERYONE in your organization. Bring them to an event or encourage a group of newer employees to attend together and pass the baton and help them understand the powerful value of networking and making connections that count to your business and their career growth and community engagement. Your chamber continues to advance your priorities, supports today’s leaders and helps develop tomorrow’s – who just might wind up working with you!
See you in the trenches,
I have a passion for economic development and enjoy tracking progress on the various projects underway in St. Paul. In case you missed the latest updates on 3 of the biggest, I am happy to share them with you this week!
Before I do, don’t forget to participate in the Fed’s latest business survey. Share your feedback about current economic conditions and help the Minneapolis Fed understand the impact that the economy is having on your business. Take the 7-minute survey here.
The Heights – Last Tuesday we celebrated with the Saint Paul Port Authority, Mayor Carter, City Council members and other state and local officials, at the groundbreaking for the Port’s newest and biggest redevelopment project on the former Hillcrest Country Club. This 112-acre site will bring up to 1000 new housing units (a mix of affordable and market-rate) and 1000 new jobs. Sherman Associates will be the master residential developer, and is partnering with JO Companies and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity; Xcel Energy already has committed to building a new east metro operations center on site. More is ahead! Here is the Pioneer Press article on the project, and the Port’s website should you want to follow along as it moves forward.
My thoughts here: this is a project to celebrate - watch the amazing Port Authority begin its work!
RiversEdge – the legislature committed $6.2M to this project this year, arguably the most exciting development opportunity in the Midwest. This is a once in a generation project on the bluff, overlooking the beautiful Mississippi River. I remain very optimistic and supportive. Ramsey County continues to be proactive, forward thinking, and we need both on this generational opportunity. Ronald Reagan was the first to teach me about supply economics: the “build it and they will come” approach to development. The east metro needs this mindset; and this project exemplifies it. RiversEdge will welcome new visitors through its planned park to connect the bluff to the river, bring in new residents with its housing/retail, and ultimately bring in new Class A office tenants (we simply don’t have enough inventory of either in St. Paul). Should you want more details, last week Finance & Commerce wrote a nice piece providing an update on the project.
My thoughts here: hold onto the vision; this is an exceptional example of envisioning what should be here, and making it so.
United Village/Snelling Midway site – it was back in 2016 that we first got a glimpse of the significant development plans for the “super block” that surrounds Allianz Field. Together the property owner, Dr. Bill McGuire, and the City’s PED/Public Works/Parks departments, have been working ever since to overcome hurdles and move forward on a development. Yes, this is taking longer than anyone had hoped; lest we forget, for 3 years we experienced market interruption of “pandemic” proportions. It’s exciting to see the current energy and momentum underway to make this vision a reality!
My thoughts here: breathe in the appreciation for the ongoing commitment from all partners on this project, to usher in the ultimate execution on a very exciting plan.
See you in the trenches,
I’m reflecting on a conversation I recently had with a civic leader who was asking about current economic conditions. The question posed to me was about which industry sectors or market segments are showing surprising strength or weakness, relative to expectations earlier in the year. Share your feedback about current economic conditions and help the Minneapolis Fed understand the impact that the economy is having on your business and take this 7-minute survey.
This is a great question, and I sought responses from several leaders of organizations, large and small, across a wide swathe of sectors. I thought you’d like to know what I learned and how I responded.
See you in the trenches,