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The Edge

Chamber-made

   
Bob Mace
   

Springfield Chamber of Commerce executive Jim Anderson is retiring. A few have inquired if that leaves this column short of fodder.

Apparently in the heat of journalistic high jinks and verbal construct readers assumed that The Edge does not appreciate or support Mr. Anderson. While sometimes disagreeing with a position taken by Anderson and the chamber or questioning chamber involvement in this or that about town, The Edge has always believed Jim Anderson to be an exceptional community leader. Anderson, like the late Curt Strube (business school head at Drury), always gives positive lift to ideas whether he, in the end, agrees with them or not.

The Edge first met Anderson (even then a man of diminished follicles) more than 20 years ago when Anderson worked for the state chamber organization. Over the years, in scattered social situations, Anderson and his wife have been engaging, interesting and fun people to be around. There should be no doubt that The Edge considers Anderson what we in the Ozarks often describe as, “good people!”

If Anderson is due any criticism from the likes of this column, it is that he is better at his job than he should be. A coalition builder, he has often blended many diverse interests into a committee, a task force or a general membership in which the achievement of the coalition eclipses the chamber’s prime directive of representing the private business sector. The chamber often is an advocate for Springfield the community rather than Springfield businesses.

A traditionalist, The Edge believes the sole role of the chamber of commerce to be that of representing the views and desires of the business sector. Owners of both small and large concerns depend on the chamber for information and to give a united local voice to the concerns of private enterprise.

 

 

This column has criticized the organization for recruiting members who represent public sector entities. The chamber should continue inviting government officials to speak and inform its ranks, but not to join as voting members. Taxpayers should not subsidize the chamber by paying membership fees for government employees. It is fact that if business interests are wholly and properly considered and represented by government, nobody needs a chamber.

The Edge voiced opposition to a chamber employee who is serving on city council. It is a conflict of interest for a councilmember to simultaneously have employment at the chamber that is a paid partner in the Convention and Visitors Bureau and in the Business Development Corporation funded by the taxpayer.

In addition to Anderson’s consensus building abilities, his availability has drawn attention here as well. It seems that our brethren at the News-Leader have Anderson on speed dial for an opinion on any and everything. Most notably was asking for a chamber opinion on the firing of an MSU president. If The Edge believes politicians should not be part of the chamber’s business advocacy, certainly college personnel decisions (unlike curriculum input) should be insulated from influences of the private business sector.

One doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and one should never confuse The Edge’s opposing views on specific issues as an indictment of either the chamber or its executive. The Edge performed contract work for the chamber when Anderson arrived here. At that time, the Springfield Area Chamber greatly benefitted this community. Under Anderson’s direction, the organization has become even more of an asset to our city.

The Edge salutes the talents and the accomplishments of Jim Anderson and wishes the chamber bonne chance in its search to fill the footprint of his quite large, Springfield-first oxfords.


E-mail Bob Mace: bmace@cfpmidweek.com.


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