With 900 members, it can be hard to know how your organization can help and enhance as many of those businesses as possible while also doing the work you just know needs to get done, even if no one ever sees you doing it.
This has been my goal for 14 years as President of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. There has never been a year where our staff and board didn’t work hard. There has never been a year where we haven’t accomplished some specific goals for our members. There has never been a year where we haven’t stayed late and come in early, doing the work behind the scenes that little will ever see or appreciate. All of those years of hard work, lead us to the next year’s body of work, repeating that cycle over and over again, as we have been working to build the most effective Chamber for our members, community and region.
In 2018, we reached a new milestone in that journey – the Bossier Chamber of Commerce was named the Louisiana Chamber of the Year, in the large chamber category. And we have never worked harder to earn that honor.
In the advocacy arena, there were many meetings, bills to watch and agendas to push for our region – riverboat gaming, nursing and physical therapy licensure compacts and GARVEE bonds, to name the top issues. We built coalitions, drove to Baton Rouge and flew to Washington, D.C., facilitated meetings and wrote letters to flex our muscles for our members.
Two of our largest wins in this arena coincide with another major area for us – the military. As we worked with Sen. Barrow Peacock to lobby for the interstate license compacts for nurses and physical therapists – we were fighting for trailing military spouses to have easy access to jobs in our region. As we worked with Sen. Ryan Gatti, gathered more than 60 letters, drove to Baton Rouge for numerous meetings, stayed on email and the phones for weeks, and made buttons saying Northwest Louisiana supports Team Barksdale – we were fighting for the I20/I220 Barksdale Interchange to get interstate access directly to Barksdale Air Force Base. That’s a major boost for community AND economic development in this region. We celebrate our military in May with our Military Recognition Breakfast and we bring ALL of our local commanders together – of our reserve units and active military – to tell the community about their missions and their needs with our Military Leadership Forum. We were proud to get all of Northwest Louisiana’s top military leaders in one room, helping them all make connections and strengthen our voice.
For entrepreneurs, we take one week to talk about all of the opportunities in our area during Innovation North Louisiana. This multi-day event is a partnership of area entities focused together for a common goal – to tell North Louisiana’s story of innovation and entrepreneurship. It is during this week that we showcase our success stories, tout our homegrown talent, and celebrate the organic growth that has stemmed from our region.
For small businesses, we tell their story on a daily basis as more than 80 percent of our members are small businesses. Check out our enewsletters for New Member Spotlights; check our social media for #MemberMonday posts; and see our billboards as we celebrate ribbon cuttings and grand openings all year long. And, we #ShopSmall in November with social media campaigns and partnerships with the East Bank Shop Small Market as well as schedule an array of events in May for National Small Business Week.
Please know that 2018 wasn’t just one year of hard work, but really the perfect culmination point of years and years of dedicated staff and board members working for you.
Don’t ever doubt how much your Chamber works for you. This year we just got a little hardware to prove it.
Lisa Johnson is president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce