Wayne Burns, new CEO of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, shared strategies for 2014 at the chamber’s luncheon Monday at the Breakers West Country Club.
“Much of what we do in 2014 is going to be focused on all of you, the members,” said Burns, who is wrapping up his first month in charge.
Along with the membership, chamber plans will focus on the economy, not only in central Palm Beach County, but the entire county and the South Florida region.
Burns expects to unveil a complete five-year strategic plan early in 2014, but he shared some general concepts at Monday’s luncheon.
“Some of these things are programmatic in nature in a way that we can actually start to roll them out over the next few months,” he said. “A lot of them are service-driven, which we can execute without actually altering or changing our budget or affecting our current model of events that we’re doing.”
Other projects that the chamber plans to undertake will probably be more budget-based and will be vetted through discussions with the board of directors, he said.
“There are really four categories of what I call ‘member-focused programs or services’ — how we can actually deliver a new value proposition to our membership,” he said. “Those are direct and indirect services as well as public relations and marketing.”
Indirect services include workforce development and the Young Professionals training. “Young Professionals is a program that many chambers have,” Burns said. “We’ve had it in the past, and we’ll continue to in 2014, but it may be a little bit different.”
Helping to develop the workforce in central Palm Beach County involves bringing a range of talent to the local work pool so that businesses seeking specific skill sets don’t have to go out of the area to find workers, he said.
“Especially through working with the Young Professionals and working with our educational institutions, K-12 as well as the universities, we can actually link some very direct programs that may be two-year degrees or four-year degrees, or maybe it’s vocational skills or training targeted toward very specific industry groups,” he said.
Direct services are delivered on a one-to-one basis.
“Business retention expansion is a term that you hear used very often in economic development, but really what it comes down to is us going around visiting with businesses face to face, learning about the things that keep those business owners or CEOs up at night, and helping to build a database, a strategic base within our industries, to understand what we could do on both a macro level and a micro level to help individual businesses,” Burns said.
He said the chamber’s position should be to help chamber businesses with “red flag” issues they may not be familiar with, such as permitting or connecting with other businesses.
“Often, members don’t know or companies in general don’t know where to go with these red flag issues, so they may have to hire expert help,” Burns said. “Maybe they can’t afford to hire that help, so if we can bring that to the table for them, that’s a very direct way to deliver service for our members.”
He would like the chamber to develop training programs using in-house staff to enable businesses to connect with larger businesses that can use their specific skill sets so they can expand and hire more people.
The chamber also plans to increase advocacy efforts by backing businesses that are having problems such as getting a traffic light or sign, or having difficulty getting through the permitting process.
“We can step in through our Government Affairs Committee and through our full-time staff and act as a liaison, and work with our municipal governments or the county, working with that business to help bridge the communication and be advocates for the business,” Burns said.
He would also like to help members be more effective in public relations. “Many larger companies or organizations are looking for a way to make the public more aware of who they are,” he said. “There are ways to do that. A lot of them have said they’d like to sponsor a more robust business academy or leadership program.”
An entrepreneurship program can be started at the high school level and moved up through the university level.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to start with someone who has already graduated or has a master’s degree or Ph.D. who is looking to start a business. It can really start at the K-12 level. There are some innovative ways to do that, and we could do it from within the Central Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce,” Burns said.
Marketing and branding is another concept he wants to develop further.
“I’m sure that you see a lot of the banners and booths at our events,” he said. “There’s ways that we can include names of companies as part of the printed material we put out to the public, whether it’s having a quote from your business or your logo within our material to add to the value. That can give your business — whether you’re large or small — brand exposure, and it does become a marketing tool. Hundreds or thousands, or maybe tens of thousands of people may see that over a period of time.”
He also wants to further develop web links for businesses in the chamber directory or involved in chamber-related projects.
“We can add something that actually gives a brief history about your company or speaks specifically about the services that you offer, so when someone pulls your name up on the registry, they can see that, and then they can go in to a direct link to your web site, or a direct link to some aspect of your business on one of your web pages that you’d like them to see,” Burns said. “There’s a lot of things that we can do to help you with branding or marketing.”
ABOVE: Wayne Burns speaks at Monday’s chamber luncheon.