Santa Cruz Tech Beat


How will possible Chamber realignment affect local tech?

By Bill Tysselling
Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce

Chamber board ponders new direction to realign with new economy

The Chamber’s 2015 Board of Directors wrestled with five core changes in the business environment and how the Chamber might be most effective in adapting to those changes. The changes the Board considered were:

  1. Social disintermediation
  2. Issue interdependency
  3. Local independence from local economics
  4. Media Dilution
  5. Diminution of Discretionary Time

Joining the board in 2015 are Doug Erickson, Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup; Steven Gray, CEO Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center; Angus Jappy, retired international executive; Greg Lukina, Director of Business Development David Lyng Real Estate; Stephanie Munoz, principal, BTF Enterprises; James Murray, COO Dignity – Dominican Hospital; Thomas Wynn, principal, Wynn Financial Management.

  1. Social disintermediation. The economic community was once a single, relatively interdependent group of businesses. In part as a result of social media but also increasing levels of job outsourcing, business centralization, and shortening of the average length of employment have pushed business people to “become an island.” Workers are increasingly in charge of developing their own relationships with a minimum of assistance from their employers. Business associations like the Chamber must adapt to the characteristics and opportunities of “worker independence.”
  2. Issue interdependence. It used to be easier to solve individual community economic problems. This project would fix a transportation issue, that project would address an education opportunity, another would support improvement in housing availability. Increasingly, the solutions to housing require improvement in transportation, public safety requires housing improvement, retail dependents upon addressing public safety, and so on. This interdependence is compounded by the limited control local governments have over their own funding mechanism. To be effective advocates the Chamber must encourage broader thinking and engage constituents with diverse interests.
  3. Independence from local economics. Santa Cruz County is the poster child for communities that struggle with much of their electorate and significant proportions of their economic base not being dependent upon the success of local businesses. Our largest employers are public sector – UCSC, local government, and Cabrillo. Something between 1/5th and 1/4th of our employed workforce works outside of the County. Much of our housing – especially much of our most expensive housing – are second homes or vacation rentals. The Chamber must find ways to both unify those who are dependent upon the local economic vitality and engage the support of those who benefit from it.
  4. Media Dilution. The cost of communicating with the electorate… or, even, with the business community continues to escalate. Long gone is the era in which most people got their news from a local newspaper and/or one of three television stations. Or, the time when postage cost less than a stick of gum. Informing the electorate or a broad range of business principals has become an expensive proposition. The Chamber must become adept in a communication environment that is diverse and often divided into adversarial constituencies.
  5. Diminution of Discretionary Time. Our older board members wistfully recount the occasional two-martini lunch; younger board members mourn the loss of a lunch ‘hour’. As demands for individual productivity have increased and staffing has thinned, the dependence of organizations like the Chamber on volunteer time has required reduced expectations and improved project management. These issues suggest changes not only in the administrative structures of the Chamber but in the products and services it offers. The board discussed new directions including improving the quality of networking experiences, improving not only the use of new media but its focus and quality, and collaboration with other organizations addressing advocacy issues and community engagement.

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