Innovation, Education, and Collaboration Set the Theme for the Future
Innovation, education, and collaboration were themes throughout the Chamber’s 139th annual business meeting last Friday where more than 700 business and community professionals gathered setting a record for the event.
Dr. Robert Johnson, the Chamber’s vice chair presided over the meeting standing in for Chamber chair, Susan Mailman whose father, Ted Coghlin, passed away unexpectedly just days before the meeting.
In the president’s report, Chamber CEO Tim Murray stressed the recruit, retain, and incubate themes as the guiding principles by which the Chamber organizes its work.
A successful campaign to raise money resulted in a 1.2 million dollar fund that allowed the Chamber to launch a comprehensive business recruitment program for Worcester and the region and establish a new Higher Education-Business Partnership with our local colleges and universities. The goal of this partnership is to retain more graduates from our local college and universities. We want them to live, work, play, and stay in Worcester and Central Massachusetts after graduation. President Murray encouraged the audience to play a role in this effort by creating and growing internship opportunities in their businesses and organizations. In turn, interns add to their workforce helping their business.
At the same time, we commissioned an in-depth study of the Central Mass economy entitled the Worcester Economic Competitiveness Outlook report. This report highlighted the following value propositions: Worcester and the region is growing; it is cost competitive; it is accessible; our workforce is young and educated; and our innovation economy is thriving. Outreach efforts to real estate developers, trade groups and associations, others have educated them about Worcester’s value proposition. Roundtable discussions by sector have been established to determine needs and areas of opportunity.
The Chamber currently has approximately 2,600 members and growing. With an emphasis on delivering value to our members, the Chamber held more than 200 programs and events in 2014. These events were focused on helping members grow and improve their businesses. Last year, Chamber staff visited 689 businesses in Worcester to educate them on all that the Chamber offers.
Under the Chamber’s retention agenda, we work to support our existing members and local businesses through our public policy and issue advocacy efforts at local city and town halls, at the Statehouse, and in Washington DC. We are determined to make sure that our members’ voices are heard. In October, we also hosted a very successful gubernatorial debate with Governor-elect Charlie Baker and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley.
Under the Chamber’s third organizing principle, incubate, we are pursuing efforts to help new businesses and sectors of our economy. StartUp Worcester will support 12 young entrepreneurs from our local colleges who have a business idea and want to create a company locally. Additionally, we are working with partners to grow businesses in the clean energy and renewable sector and are seeking ways to promote video and digital gaming, robotics, and other new innovation.
Keynote speaker, and self-proclaimed nerd, Dr. Laurie Leshin inspired the crowd with her commitment to Worcester and its innovation sector. Dr. Leshin is the newly inaugurated president of WPI and a former NASA employee. Dr. Leshin emphasized all of the assets that Worcester has available and that through collaboration between business and higher education, we can transform our future and that of millions worldwide. She states, “To remain at the forefront of innovation and prosperity, we need to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-collaborate everybody else. And by working closely with all of you, we will do just that.” Read Dr. Leshin’s speech.
The Chamber extends thanks to the dozens of sponsors that made this event possible and in particular to the Hanover Insurance Group who was the signature sponsor for the event.