A couple of months ago, our Chamber launched the Return the Favor program. Recently, I heard one of our Chamber Ambassadors explaining the program to a Chamber Member – with an excitement in their voice they explained, “It’s our chance to see what’s on your mind. What are the most important aspects of your business that we can do something about?” We call it Return the Favor because the day you signed up as a Chamber Member you not only did your business a favor – creating opportunities to network and build relationships with other community minded businesses – your membership made it possible for us all working together, to make this a better region to work, live, and visit.
Each membership in the Chamber adds another voice to our advocacy, lowers the costs for other businesses to experience our training programs and seminars, and creates a greater network of business to business relationships. These past two months, I have been dropping in on our Chamber Members, making some of the Return the Favor calls. I explain I’m there to ask how we can return the favor of community involvement – your investment in our Chamber and community. Invariably, I have been met with member after member, complimenting our Chamber on the stands we have taken.
This year we have aggressively opposed the spread of unions in both our public and private workforce, pushed for a magistrate in North Mecklenburg, and advocated loudly for expediting the completion of I-485 and the widening of I-77. This past month, an issue we have worked on aggressively for more than a decade, was finally approved when the Mecklenburg County Board overturned the ban on public swimming at the County’s lake parks. It is a big win for our businesses, our communities, and this Chamber. The night the measure was approved unanimously by the County Commissioners, Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte and I had the chance to speak on the issue. I told the County Board there was a time when park board members and staff told me the ban would never be lifted. The issue seemed rather insurmountable. However, it just goes to show that when we all work hard, work smart, and work together, no challenge or issue is too great to overcome.
Last month, our Chamber leadership met with our federal delegation in Washington, D.C. on issues ranging from the North Corridor Rail Line and I-77 to Health Care Reform. It wasn’t all hard work as we took one afternoon to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Standing there gazing at the small wooden cross on Bobby Kennedy’s grave, I thought about something he said in 1967 as he launched his Presidential race that ended in such tragedy. “If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we did not want – a world we did not choose – but a world we could have made better, by caring more for the results of our labors. And we shall be left only with the hollow apology of T.S. Eliot: ‘That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all’.”
We should all live and work so that the generations which come after us will say of our leadership today – “They did not fail to dare. They created a community – a world, much better than they found it. And they did it because they would not settle for less.”