by Timothy P. Murray
President & CEO, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
In August, I had the opportunity to attend the As- sociation of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah with several members of our Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce team. The ACCE Annual Meeting consists of meetings and presentations that share best practices and discussions on a variety of topics that chambers are grappling with across the country. Some of these topics included economic development, workforce development, diversity, equity and inclusion models, legislative policy, data utilization, and discussions on the issues of housing and homelessness as well as public safety. These sessions reinforce that many of the challenges we face here in Worcester and Central Massachusetts are not unique.
Several of the sessions that I attended shared polling and survey data that were interesting to compare to the findings of a poll The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce conducted this past April.
The first poll results that were shared came from the 2023 Edelman‘s Trust Barometer which gauges people’s trust and credibility in various institutions such as government, business, media, as well as others. Not surprisingly, in an increasingly polarized environment trust in government is down with only 42% in the United States having confidence in information received from government entities. Conversely, trust in business has been growing over the past several years in the U.S. with 55% trusting businesses as a source of accurate information. However, what was most interesting and reassuring was that respondents felt that the best societal outcomes result when government and the business sector work together on an issue. 41% of the respondents stated that it is more likely to yield optimal results from partnerships between business or government than either acting alone. The results of the 2023 Edelman’s Trust Barometer can be found at Edelman.com and then typing in Edelman Trust Barometer on the website query site or at this link https://www.edelman.com/ trust/2023/trust-barometer.
The second poll was conducted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in April 2023. The poll asked questions of San Francisco voters. 77% of those that responded said San Francisco was on the wrong track with only 17% saying it was on the right track. 75% stated there had been a decline in the cleanliness of their streets. 60% said crime was a major issue which was up significantly from 26% in 2022. 77% agreed that more housing was needed in San Francisco’s downtown. 64% stated they felt safe going into the downtown during the day while only 30% felt safe going into the downtown in the evening. These polling numbers are not necessarily surprising given the political divide and acrimony within the political and governmental leadership in San Francisco that has been reported by multiple news sources. Moreover, a number of policy decisions made with little or no consideration given to local neighborhood and business concerns has contributed to these results and negative economic and public safety impacts.
In April, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce released results of a poll of 500 Worcester residents using data from the 2020 U.S. census. The poll was conducted by Anne Danehy, President of Strategic Opinion Research, Inc., and all 500 respondents were conducted over the telephone from zip codes across the city.
Some of these results are as follows:
• The poll asked all respondents whether Worcester was headed in the right direction or wrong direction. 60% indicated that Worcester was moving in the right direction with 21% saying it was headed in the wrong direc- tion. 19% had no opinion.
• Respondents, when asked about the number one issue facing Worcester that they worry or think about most often, the cost of living and crime were the two issues in which they are the most concerned.
• When respondents were asked what type of news they were most inter- ested in 63% answered that local news was their preference.
• 63% of the respondents said a primary focus of the Worcester City Council should be creating more jobs for Worcester residents with 30% disagreeing and 7% with no opinion.
• 53% said taxing businesses disproportionately risks driving businesses out of Worcester with 36% disagreeing and 12% with no opinion.
• 71% of the respondents were in favor of Worcester building more apart- ments with 23% in opposition and 6% with no opinion.
• Respondents by over an 80% margin said the commuter rail and the Worcester Regional Airport have been a benefit to the city.
• 82% believed workforce training was critical in attracting businesses and jobs to Worcester.
• Lastly, 55% of the respondents felt the Worcester Public Schools provided a great education with 30% disagreeing and 7% undecided.
• The margin of error in this polling was 4.5%
My takeaway from these three polls is that Worcester residents and businesses are best served by the elected and appointed leadership in government, as well as business and institutional leaders and others in addressing the myriad of complex and challenging issues facing it by continuing to engage in the culture of collaboration and respect. Worcester has been able to grow and make progress on multiple fronts over the past 20 years with this collaborative approach on multiple fronts. Debate and disagreement can and should happen and serves the community well, but leaders have an obligation to get results. Debate and dialogue followed by compromise and consensus are our best way forward and the most likely way to achieve results.