Chamber Board Chair Reflects on the Past Year

William Stephan Indiana University - Vice President for Engagement

William Stephan
Indiana University – Vice President for Engagement

It has been my pleasure to serve as Chair of The Chamber’s Board of Directors for the past year. As that term comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the progress and the impact we have made. As the voice of business for our nearly 1,000 members, The Chamber has continued to advance the interests of business in our community. At the heart of this effort are our many volunteers, members and staff who are committed to building better business and better community for the greater Bloomington/Monroe County area.

Our mission to provide leadership through member engagement, business advocacy and civic partnerships to strengthen our community and business environment is an ongoing effort supported by several strategic goals. I’m proud to say that we have continued to advance this mission and make progress in each of our strategic goals.

One of the most direct ways that The Chamber represents its members is in the area of advocacy and public policy. The Chamber staff, Advocacy Council, Legislative Council and various committees, all serve as the voice of business at the local, state and federal levels.

Perhaps no issue reflects our commitment to Bloomington’s future more than the ways in which we have helped lead, facilitate and manage negotiations related to Section 5 of I-69.  Brokering discussions among INDOT representatives, local elected officials, and business and community leaders has enabled constructive dialogue and progress consistent with community expectations for reasonable and beneficial outcomes.

The Chamber is also leading the way on broader discussions as we plan for the I-69 Regional Summit this October. This event will bring together representatives from the business, government, higher education, defense, economic development, tourism, agriculture, trade and logistics sectors to examine ways to enable collaboration and leverage the new and existing I-69 corridor from a statewide perspective.

Chamber leadership on downtown parking issues has offered an opportunity to engage in collaborative discussions with stakeholders and influence decisions by City leaders as more permanent policies are established.  We continue to carefully monitor issues related to downtown building and signage along with the full array of regulatory and zoning matters that impact our members. We will continue to participate in discussions surrounding safe and civil city initiatives and other broad issues that impact our members and the vitality of our community.

The Chamber’s ongoing leadership with the Franklin Initiative—our education retention and attainment program–remains one of our most significant efforts and one that has dramatically impacted the lives and futures of scores of Bloomington area students.  We remain especially grateful to our supporters, such as AT&T, Smithville Charitable Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County for their generous support that has enabled program success and continuity.

Honoring our community’s leading educators earlier this year at our Educators of the Year Awards dinner was both heartwarming and a compelling reminder of the commitment our teachers and counselors make to our youngsters and the impact they have in their lives and on our community.

Events are one of the primary ways we provide opportunities for our members to network with peers, potential customers, community leaders and elected officials. This year, we were able to bring in some very influential and well-known speakers. Hosting former US Senator Evan Bayh as the keynote speaker at our Federal Focus Luncheon was a Chamber highlight, as was our annual Governor’s Luncheon featuring Governor Mike Pence in IU’s newly refurbished Alumni Hall.  These two annual events are just a couple of ways the Chamber provides a forum for our members to hear from our federal and state elected officials.

And in August, we will hold our annual Health in Business luncheon with G. William Hoagland who is a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. Hoagland will share insights on the impacts of healthcare reform for employers and carriers, and discuss the effects of the political climate in Washington on healthcare reform.

Finally, just a note of sincere thanks to my fellow board members, whose commitment to a better Bloomington cannot be overstated.  Their dedication and spirit of volunteerism is truly inspirational and so indicative of what makes Bloomington a truly remarkable community and a great place to do business!