For as long as I can remember the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Main Street Program have been on opposing teams. The real overall mission of each group is really not all that different. I’m sure the Chamber has obligations to the industrial sector that Main Street does not. Main Street has a historic development theme which may not be in keeping with the Chamber.
The bottom line is this. Both groups have one common goal. Making Columbus a better place to do business. A healthy industrial sector is good for downtown. A vibrant and attractive downtown is good for the industrial segment. People that work in the factories, hospital, schools and small businesses need goods and services that the downtown can provide. Business people like to come downtown for lunch and business meetings. Downtown shopkeepers need those big businesses to supply customers.
From the outside looking in it appears that both groups are competing for the same members, money and volunteers. It would also appear that both groups are struggling right now. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m guessing both groups have 4 or 5 board members and need more. Both groups need money. Both groups are burned out and need new energy. Both groups need volunteers and new ideas.
Why not become one. We are all on the same team. A combined group does not need to be all or nothing. It needs to be a team consisting of different people with different ideas but one big common goal. Making Columbus a great place to live, work and do business. There can be a downtown preservation committee. There can be an industrial development committee. There can be a health care development committee. All with one common goal.
I could be wrong. I could be wrong about this point but I would bet City government would be supportive of a strong and focused business organization. The city distributes room tax and other economic development funds. Right now both groups are competing for the same money. Why not work together with one global budget and a singular mission.
Guess who pays the price for two business groups who are competing with each other? The business community. The actual people the groups are supposed to be helping. Driving around our city should make that pretty obvious. Overall Columbus has seen very little growth over the boom years and downtown continues to fight a loosing battle.
We are in tough times. If there was ever a time when the community needed to be sending a positive forward message about business it’s now. Growth today is difficult enough when you are firing on eight cylinders let alone three. Both groups are asking for members and help. Response is minimal at best. I have a hunch that if one strong group emerged community leaders could be convinced to get involved. This one group needs to hand select business CEO’s, bank executives, small business people and community leaders to help make it real. Strong ROI kinds of people to participate in the building of a stable and successful organization with long term goals.
Keep the good parts of each group alive in the new organization but send one unified message. One really high quality professional brand for Columbus. One website. One schedule of events. One printed promotional piece. But most importantly only one mission. Making Columbus a great place to live, work and do business.
Which brings us to the question of the day. When it comes to recycling can you mix busted hard liquor bottles with smashed beer bottles?