Kevin Cowan, the current President of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce provides a simple run down of why the Chamber is an important factor for new and existing businesses in Woodland. The relationships to the City of Woodland alone would be beneficial to any new business having to work with the various departments for permits and approvals. But they are much more than that as you will read.
As with any association, it can only be as strong as the participation of its members, something Kevin feels is critical to the overall success of the Chamber. New or existing, members should reach out to the Chamber and pose their questions and needs to the staff. They are there to assist, which is their mission; “…to promote economic progress and quality of life in the Woodland community and to foster a climate in which commerce, industry and agriculture will flourish.”
What can a business expect from the Chamber?
We can guide you through the process of opening or bringing your business to town. We can show you some of the advantages of doing business in Woodland. As you know, it’s a beautiful community, and we’re smack in the middle of everything. And in a lot of ways, we’re like a microcosm for the greater area, and you’ll find in some businesses, you can test their products here because we’re a very desirable demographic. As far as working with the Chamber of Commerce goes, though, we can provide services as far as helping you navigate city permitting, anything like that. We can make introductions to local connections in the business community if you need suppliers, or if you need customers, we can put you in touch with the people you need.
What does having membership mean to the Chamber?
We’d like membership, and not just in the form of dollars from dues, but really membership in the form of participation is what makes it strong. When people are out at chamber events and they say, “Oh, that’s the chamber doing this,” it’s like, “Oh, that gives us some cache.” So as much as we want members just to join, we want members to be participating too. That’s the key.
And the more businesses that are involved, the stronger we are as a voice and the better we can make our own decisions. If we can be a strong group talking amongst ourselves about what we want, then somebody else isn’t coming in and telling us what we want to do.
What opportunities open up for your business as a member?
Several opportunities. We offer a lot of outreaching in the form of newsletters and electronic communications, a lot of outreach and feedback as far as social media goes. And if you subscribe to our sites, you’ll see the posts that we put out for you that’s what we’re doing. Throughout the year, we’ll offer informational lectures for our members. We’ll cover timely and important topics to our business community. Last year, we hosted some on drought, water issues, what’s going on with the city, what’s going on with downtown. That’s a lot of what business asks, so it’s, “What’s going on with the city?”. We pride ourselves on having built that relationship with City Hall. It took a long time, I mean, there were times when it wasn’t a real friendly relationship. But then recently, we’ve had a very business-friendly council, and with this new council, we’re hoping to continue those relationships.
How does the Chamber work with the City of Woodland on behalf of its members?
We maintain daily relationships with staff at the city and with elected officials, and we know the departments and how they work, so we can get in and talk to the right person. We’ll say, “Here’s the situation. Here’s how we understand it. Can you tell us what you know about this?” And usually we can mediate in some way and we know the departments and how they work, so we can get in and talk to the right person.
What is on your priority list as President?
It’s all big. Economic development is a big piece of this for me. I’d like to see economic development and work force development kind of go hand in hand. Everybody sees things a little bit differently, but I think that if we make the jobs available and then provide skilled workers to fill those jobs, then that’s what we need for a good economy here in the town. And there’s a lot of pieces that are falling into place now for that. With our pro business government lately, we’ve been able to attract some rather large newer business such as San Francisco Spice Company. Those things generate jobs and quality jobs. Jobs people can pay the mortgage with.
We’re also working with educators, like Dr. Michael White, over at the Woodland Community College. We’re trying to influence the curriculum because the feedback we’re getting from some of our member businesses is that we need specialized skills. If we could find someone with either any sort of accounting background or any sort of agronomy, anything in those two fields, we have available jobs.
What do you want businesses to know about the Chamber?
Strength in numbers, and we are the voice of business in this community. Join us and help us make things the way you need them to be.