In November 2016, I was honored to be selected as the President of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, so as we enter 2018, I am completing my first year in the role. Anniversaries are a good chance to reflect and take stock, and a first anniversary is no different. Over the course of the past year I’ve had the great opportunity to meet with a wide range of business, education, faith and government representatives all of whom are focused on improving our community. In my time with them, I’ve learned several things.
- History Matters: The Chamber was founded in 1910 and is more than 100 years old. What has been impressive to me is to find out the number of companies who have been Chamber members for decades, and even a century. In addition to the continued presence of three of our founding members – Atco Investments, The Shreveport Times and Wray Ford – we have 92 who have been members for 50-to-100 years and another 198 who have been members from 25-to-50 years. This continuity speaks well of our economy and of the role the Chamber plays as a resource and a catalyst for business in our community To help celebrate this history, at our upcoming January Annual Meeting we will be recognizing some of these long time members as well as members who are reaching a business milestone.
- All Business is Local: One of my favorite activities since I started at the Chamber has been to attend Ribbon Cuttings. While I don’t get to do nearly as many as I’d like, the chance to participate in the celebration of a local business’s success is truly something special. Each of these business owners has staked their personal and professional reputation on a dream and has put their blood, sweat and even tears into making it a reality. When the Chamber can bring together other community businesses to stand together with the new owners, and often their families and friends, it is an important chance to reinforce our local ties and let each other know that we are in this together.
- No one does it alone: This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve seen in action. Shreveport-Bossier is an integrated economic system with cross river commerce, commuting, migration and collaboration as indelible parts of who we are as a region. It has been so gratifying to be able to work with my peers across the river in the Bossier and Minden Southwestern Chambers, as well as with other groups such as NLEP, Downtown Development, the Convention and Tourist Bureau, GBDEF as well as representatives of our cities and parishes on issues of common interest and importance. This ongoing regional collaboration is one important key to our economic development.
- Education is our foundation: Our future is literally our children. Unless we provide a high-quality education for all of our children, regardless of background or zip code, we will not be able to ignite the kind of sustained economic growth that we need. While we are seeing some improvement in our K-12 education systems, increasingly we are learning that providing early childhood education, from birth to 4-years-old, is possibly the most important investment we can make as a community. If children enter kindergarten behind, it often takes years for them to catch up, and many don’t. Going forward we will need to explore new ways to knit together public and private efforts to create a sustained system to provide more children these early education experiences.
Time and space do not allow me to expand this list, although the lessons of the past year are many. What has been most reassuring this year has been the confirmation of the thing that impressed me most on coming to Shreveport-Bossier: the number of people and organizations dedicated to making this area a better place. I’ve had the good fortune to work with many of them this year, and I hope that the Chamber’s contribution is helping to move the needle in making our region a great place to live, work and play.
Dr. Tim Magner is president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce