The last few years have featured several changes for the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, highlighted by a new program in GovConnects and the hiring of a new president late in 2014. With those changes come the integration of new ideas, initiatives and processes.

As part of ongoing efforts to grow the Chamber, the organization has embarked upon the development of a three-year strategic plan. Operating under the auspices of Vision for 2020, strategic planning efforts have been underway since February with an expected completion date of May or June.

Seeking to have an inclusive and comprehensive process, the Chamber’s consultant met with three focus groups, interviewed eight community leaders and held two half-day planning sessions with the staff and board of directors. A host of themes emerged from those meetings and conversations.

Areas deemed most important, and ones the Chamber should devote immediate attention to, are the following.

  • Membership Growth, Development & Engagement
  • Public Policy
  • External Collaboration/Regional Relationships
  • Marketing & Communication
  • Small Business & Entrepreneurship Development
  • Education, Workforce & Leadership Development
  • Minority Business Outreach, Diversity & Inclusiveness

The Chamber has since taken these ideas and concepts and narrowed them down to four distinct areas. These “pillars,” as they are being referred to, ultimately will drive the Chamber’s programming, budgetary and staffing priorities over the next three-and-a-half years. The four areas of focus are as follows.

Membership Development

The Chamber recognizes that for the institution to accomplish the strategic objectives, it must grow numerically, which translates into providing programs, projects, services and events that are considered to be of importance, thereby leading to increased financial resources.

Advocacy/Public Policy

Always a staunch advocate for private enterprise, the Chamber plans to continue to champion pro-business public policy, but recognizes it must do so in a manner that is non-partisan and fact-based, which can only come about by working in a more collaborative fashion with Howard County elected and appointed officials.

Enhanced Messaging

The ability to convey one’s value proposition and highlight the impact one’s work is doing is vital for membership-based organizations. As business groups compete for financial resources, it is paramount that the Chamber implement a meaningful communications, marketing and public relations plan that conveys how the Chamber aids its members in assessing timely information to more efficiently and profitably run their businesses.

Organizational Sustainability

Howard County as a whole has developed a brand of excellence that has come about via competent people, efficient operations and quality delivery of programs and services, which ultimately has led the community to be envied by others. As it grows, the Chamber understands that to earn the trust and respect of its members and stakeholders, the “journey” of continuous improvement must never end.

The Chamber will continue to inform members and community stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead on its strategic direction and how it will define and measure success. For a more in-depth look, interested persons are invited to attend the Chamber’s Annual Meeting on May 19 at the Columbia Sheraton.