From the Chairman

Now is the Time to Come Together and Meet the Challenge of Our Time


This year’s U.S. election, perhaps more than any in recent memory, was highly contentious and very personal to many people. Voters put a lot of energy into supporting their candidates at the local, state and national level. We knew going in that a significant portion of the country’s population would inevitably be unhappy with the results of the election, regardless of outcome. 


As is true with every election, as chamber of commerce leaders, our job in keeping our communities strong does not change depending on who is in office. It is our responsibility to continue to wake up every day and do what we can to make our cities, regions, states, country and world better. It is our responsibility to work with elected officials on both sides of the political aisle to push forward public policy initiatives that make our communities better for all who live and work in them. And it is our responsibility to lead with civility and to be a model for others.  


Getting communities to come together and unite in support of common objectives is a key role that chambers of commerce have played for many, many years. Many chamber leaders have read “The Magicians of Main Street, America and its Chambers of Commerce, 1768-1945,” which was written by former ACCE staff member Chris Mead. The book serves as an important reminder that taking on tough challenges is nothing new to our industry. Time and time again, chamber leaders have stepped up to address the trials and tribulations of the day – including during the 1918 flu pandemic. Now, more than 100 years later, our job is more important than ever. Political polarization, racial equity issues, the ongoing COVID pandemic, unprecedented natural disasters and the resulting economic challenges will require all of us to continue to dig deep to once again help lead our communities through these tough times and come out stronger on the other end.  


For all the talk of a “new normal” in our economy and society, I like to think of this as our time as chamber leaders to help create a “better normal.” With great challenges come great opportunities. As we continue to examine the Horizon Initiative’s Nine Influences and set a collective vision for “The Future of Chambers,” we have the opportunity to play a lead role in creating a more sustainable, a more inclusive, a more innovative, a more resilient and a more civil normal.   


This will take all of us — chamber leaders, our members, community partner organizations, corporate leaders and yes, elected officials at all levels. It is incumbent upon all of us as chamber leaders to step up as uniters and help our communities, states and country come together and identify and rally around a positive, pro-growth common ground agenda. Bringing people, ideas and communities together for a greater cause is what we do. Our collective future is depending on it. 


What will history say about what ACCE and all of us as chamber leaders did in 2020 and 2021 to step up to this challenge? Even in these times of great uncertainty, the answer is up to all of us. As Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” So let’s get out there, and let’s make it happen!


Jay Byers, CCE, IOM is chairman of the ACCE Board of Directors and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving Central Iowa with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and a network of more than 6600 regional members.
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