Chamber announces ‘re-branding,’ reorganization at raucous annual meeting

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 2:43am

Continuing its fight against a five-year decline in membership numbers, leaders of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce announced at its annual meeting Tuesday the full extent of a $75,000 re-branding and reorganization effort.

Chamber president and CEO Ralph Schulz — now one year into his tenure as head of the Chamber — said Tuesday that many of the changes are geared to open up leadership and community action opportunities to more members, including the 92 percent of the organization’s membership base that includes small businesses.

“At the base of that is, you’ve got to be broad in your community leadership to pull this branding strategy off,” Schulz said. “You don’t have to be on the board anymore to lead an effort.”

The Chamber’s re-workings, as previously reported in The City Paper, include a major paring down of the Chamber’s board of directors.

In June, the Chamber Board cut the size of itself almost in half, from 69 members to 34, and at the same time adopted a comprehensive set of new governance policies and procedures.

Chairpersons of a new set of chartered committees — to replace, for the most part, the roughly 20 former board committees — will be appointed by the board beginning next year but will not have to be board members, as the previous committee structure required.

The reorganization has included staff changes too, though Schulz said he believes the Chamber’s “head count” hasn’t changed significantly over the course of the year.

Several positions have been eliminated. Others have been added, including the addition of former Purcell administration member Marc Hill as the Chamber’s chief education officer.

Schulz said a goal for the Chamber as revenue increases this year will be to add more staff members to positions supporting existing business, as well as research.

The Chamber is beefing up its Public Benefit Foundation — an organization that facilitates long-term public-private efforts to improve social ills such crime, poverty, and problems with the education system — to serve as an “action arm” of new Chamber research, Schulz said. Former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry was recently appointed head of the foundation.

The organization also will continue to step up its civic action efforts, Schulz said.

In the last year, the Chamber has publicly opposed “English-only” legislation that was before the Metro Council, supported keeping the Nashville Predators in town through the Our Team coalition, supported construction of a new convention center and committed to making improvement of public schools the organization’s top priority.

The Chamber’s retention rate for the 2006-2007 financial year was 87 percent. But Schulz said in a previous City Paper interview that the rate is 6 percent higher than last year’s.

Overall membership for the Chamber increased by 27 percent in the last year, according to a statement from the organization.

In terms of the Chamber’s new branding strategy, which was announced at the meeting Tuesday with a performance art painting of the Chamber’s new logo by Texas artist Dan Dunn, the organization said it is building and maintaining a membership experience that matches its new tagline, “Belong, Engage, Lead, Prosper.”

“Everything we do is about that,” said Janet Miller, the Chamber’s vice president for economic development and leader of the organization’s branding team. “We have a new internal mantra.”

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By: lewis7412 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce should be interested in acquiring and supporting businesses in and for Davidson County with which they have fallen woefully short too many times. The chamber could be classified as being very successful in the location of businesses in surrounding counties. And as for support of education in Nashville, their support of the election of council people supporting the status quo of MNPS brings the realistic vision of the chamber into question and what they presume their charter to be especially in light of their latest education report which gave MNPS a passing grade. This was totally negated by the No Child Left Behind report from the State of Tennessee within which MNPS is now only 1 of 4 school systems in the entire state that is a high priority system. The state now how the authority over MNPS to “Replace Local Education Agency personnel relevant to failure” / “Remove particular schools from Local Education Agency jurisdiction” / “Abolish / restructure Local Education Agency.” A rebranding (read new coat of paint) of the chamber does not affect the structure under the paint.

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am not so sure Ralph Schultz is not damaged goods...he tried to orchestrate a take over of the Metro Council in the last election cycle and failed miserably. In fact...he accomplished nothing except to create 14 to 16 enemies on the Metro Council for the Chamber and his friends who were bankrolling him at the time. It will be interesting to see what he can do with all the enemies he's created by overreaching politically. Every dog has its day, and his is coming ....soon.