(I wasn’t there. The photo of David is from a comp plan meeting last year.)
So, what did Ludescher say that was so outrageous? That Northfield isn’t the most business-friendly place in the world. That not nearly enough local businesses support the Chamber, and that the community believes erroneously that the Chamber exists to serve the whole community, not just the Chamber’s members. That even city leaders neglect to think about business in their plans. He made his point with several comments that could be — and were by some — construed as sharp, such as:
- saying that if parents thought an after-prom party was such a great idea they should pay for it themselves instead of asking the Chamber to foot the bill;
- accusing those who weren’t Chamber members of “milking the Chamber cow” while refusing to join the organization;
- saying that it was ironic that the city’s transportation task force has a member who represents the interests of those who bike but no one who represents the interests of the trucking industry.
David has a guest column in today’s paper titled: Business needs bigger role.
During 2007, nearly every outside observer who commented on the Northfield business climate said that Northfield is a difficult place to do business. As the only organization solely dedicated to improving the business climate in the Northfield area, the Chamber needs to demand to be a participant in important decisions… In perspective, 2007 was, in many ways, a frustrating and disappointing year for me personally, because I had sought to accomplish so much more. The message I leave with you is that 2008, and the years to come, are filled with hope. 2007 has taught me that the Chamber has a difficult, but nevertheless sure and certain mission, in which we can place our hope.
I’m not a member of the Chamber, even though I’ve been operating a sole proprietorship business here in Northfield for 8 years. No one has ever asked me to join, explaining what the benefits would be for someone with my type of business, or how my membership would benefit the overall community.
Plus, there some things that bug me about the Chamber that, as I think about it, have contributed to my lack of interest in joining:
- In the 13+ years that I and my colleagues have spent creating and maintaining a vibrant online culture here, one that includes businesses, no one from the Chamber has ever publicly or privately acknowledged it that I know of.
- In the 13+ years that I’ve moderated online discussions here in Northfield, Chamber President Kathy Feldbrugge has virtually never participated.
- I’ve attended many Chamber events over the years and taken hundreds of photos for both Northfield.org and now Locally Grown. I’ve blogged about dozens and dozens of Chamber business members over the years. No one from the Chamber has ever thanked me.
- The Chamber’s web site has always sucked. There’s never any news on their news page. If there was, there’s no RSS feed to subscribe to it. There are few photos on the site, and not one photo of a person. Not one. No board member photos, no staff photos, no member photos. There’s no mention of the most vibrant, geographically-based blogosphere in the country. Other than their community calendar, the Chamber site is a dead brochure.
Likewise, the Chamber’s Convention and Visitor Bureau website. Why not feature the Northfield Entertainment Guide (NEG) there? It’s the best thing going to show visitors the vibrancy of the town’s happenings. Why not grab the RSS feeds from ArtOrg, the NAG, Northfield.org, and many other organizations in town and display the feed headlines in the sidebars to show visitors what’s happening?
In short, the Chamber’s websites are 1999 vintage in a town that’s as Web 2.0-savvy as any in the country.
This past year, I’ve really appreciated David Ludescher’s willingness to engage in public online discussion of issues, both business-related and otherwise. His participation has been a breath of fresh air, even though I disagree with him sometimes. Will the new Chamber president, Jeff Hasse, and other board members do likewise? I hope so.
(We’ve said it many times here and we say it on our About page: “Many newspapers publish editorials where the senior editorial staff collectively author opinion pieces. We don’t do that. The opinions we express are specific to each of us, not a collective “Locally Grown” voice. Expect to see us disagreeing with one another.” So the views above about the Chamber are entirely my own. I have no idea to what extent Ross and Tracy agree or disagree, nor have they seen this blog post before any one else.)