Be Engaged. Be informed. Be the Difference. Naples Works. Opportunity Happens.
by John S. Cox, CCE, CEcD, IOM
President & CEO
Each of the three sets of two sentences above describe the work that takes place under the umbrella of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and its Affiliates: Opportunity Naples and Leadership Collier. The Mission of the Greater Naples Chamber is to make Collier County the best place in America to live, work and visit.
We do that work in and through four pillars: Community Development, Leadership Development, Economic Development and Public Policy. We aren’t the only actors on the community stage—we partner with dozens of other community groups, governments, educational systems, residents and businesses all vitally interested in the sustainability of this community over time. Our all-Volunteer Boards, our Committee members, the nearly 100 Visitor and Information Center Volunteers, our Ambassador and Action Team (80 strong) and our professional staff are engaged each day in pursuing a collective impact. We call it “Mission.”
We believe in supporting, endorsing and promoting a number of community led initiatives like recognizing the importance of completing the Freedom Memorial, promoting the Identity Task Force or allowing the Reef Project to get off the ground at a recent Wake Up Naples event.
Our commitment in this area speaks to why we are so committed to the Blue Zone project. Community Development also takes place through the Membership and Marketing arm of our Chamber. We bring together people, ideas, and priorities. It’s often said, “We do things other people think just happen.” Whether you’re sitting with 60 people at an Accelerated Luncheon, attending a Wake Up Naples breakfast with 130 other early risers or meeting 150 new business contacts at an After 5 event you will get to know this town and become part of this community. We also care about education attainment, teacher recruitment and creating a community where every person sets and attains goals for themselves and their families.
It’s about strengthening Collier County that leads us to ask everyone to join the Greater Naples Chamber—including you. In Naples, leading businesses are leading our communities.
It’s hard to argue with twenty-six years of success! Leadership Collier is the flagship of our leadership offerings. Everything rises or falls on leadership. Our classes sell out year after year and are described mainly by one word: Transformational. You could be brand new to this place as I was when I entered the class or you could have lived here all your life—the experience is transformational. Our GAIN (Growing Associates In Naples) initiative targets young professionals forty years old or younger. This program sells out year after year as well and one of the take away ideas—perhaps the most compelling—is that there are passionate, skilled, talented and involved young professionals in this market who want to make Naples home, who want to raise their families here and who want to build their businesses here as well. We also have a Youth Leadership cohort for rising juniors—and we only accept 33 into this prestigious program each summer. Adding to those programs is the work done by Leadership Collier Alumni now some 1400 leaders strong!
And we know we can and must do more to create, empower and release these leaders back into the community so they can Be Engaged, Be informed and Be the Difference.
Our Partnership for Collier’s future economy is now ready to do business as Opportunity Naples. Under our Board’s leadership the Opportunity Naples Steering Committee is morphing into an Implementation Committee pursuing a three year economic development plan. Fourteen key initiatives are included in the preimplementation plan. We believe our community will be sustainable overtime by diversifying the economy now. We want to create an environment where local talent will build local companies that will create local jobs with higher skills and innovation. You may have read recently of our work with a local, rapidly expanding, tech related company, which was prepared to move out of Collier County. We are known by the companies we keep. We don’t want to lose another job.
Fortunately all of us working together were able to find a solution, which will allow us to retain 50 jobs, anticipate an expansion of jobs and recognize the value of new capital investment in this community. We plan to keep creating opportunity in Naples. That’s why we say, “Naples Works. Opportunity Happens.”
We believe the economy is best served when good government and good business work together. That’s why our engagement in Public Policy is so important. Transportation infrastructure, fire-police-safety, growth management and education are all important areas where business and government have important work to do—and it is best done together. We celebrate the fact that we have access to and influence with our elected officials. And we also take seriously our responsibility to understand from our business base what those key policy issues are.
We know the future of economic development tomorrow is excellence in education today and we want our talent pipeline full of our own well-trained, qualified and skilled employees. Those same reasons are also why we encourage thoughtful, experienced and growing leaders to consider running for political office—another way to make a difference!
Our community umbrella is large—big enough for everyone to step under. I invite you to join us in the work of making Collier County the best place in America to live work and visit and to help achieve wins in these important areas.