Howard County is undergoing an extraordinary transformation. The continued development of Downtown Columbia and Maple Lawn is changing our skyline and promises to attract a more diverse and vibrant community. Gateway continues to attract major employers, and we are looking forward to unlocking the huge economic potential through the revitalization of the Route 1 and Route 40 corridors. Innovations by institutions such as Howard County General Hospital, HCC and HCEDA are helping to make Howard County the best place in the region to own a business.

The leadership and staff of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce understand that in order to remain relevant, the Chamber must keep pace with this rapidly changing business environment. Thanks to the vision of our new president and CEO and our board of directors, and to the hard work and dedication of our staff and volunteers, the Chamber is finding new and innovative ways to serve the needs of our members and the broader business community.

One of our core missions is to serve as the voice of business in Howard County. While trade associations do a good job advancing the interests of specific industries, no other organization endeavors to be a champion for the business community as a whole. Through an expanded legislative committee and regular staff communication, the Chamber has been able to engage our elected officials in a constructive and collaborative manner.

We will be taking a hard look at our events and programs with a view toward better engaging our membership. Every Chamber member should have the opportunity to actively participate in Chamber activities beyond mere attendance at events. Meaningful engagement leads to more genuine business connections, as well as a more worthwhile Chamber experience overall.

We are improving on ways to provide our members with timely and relevant information, including through enhanced legislative alerts, educational programs and social media.

Finally, we are striving to expand the diversity of our board and our membership. There is no one business community in Howard County. Instead, there are multiple and varied business communities. Our Chamber will be stronger and more effective if its leadership and membership reflect the broader community, including by race, gender, age and size and type of business.

Across the country, chambers and trade associations have learned that they cannot survive, much less thrive, unless they continue to provide value to their members. In the coming months, the Chamber will present its new strategic plan. That plan will center on ensuring, above all, that the Chamber remains dedicated to putting our members first.

If you are not already a member, this is a great time to join. I’m looking forward to an exciting year as we begin to take the Chamber to the next level. Just like our Howard County community, the Chamber is about to undergo a transformation. As our President and CEO, Leonardo McClarty, said in his address at the annual meeting last year: “Buckle up, and let’s get ready for the ride!”