Whew. 2017 is coming to a close. What a ride this year has been – for so many of us.
I’d like to take a moment and thank Matt Kramer for all he’s done for the Chamber and, well, for who he is. It is my tremendous honor to have taken the reins as of August 1, 2017, and I do so with great confidence in the future because Matt has diligently laid the framework for a financially sound, strategically led, and extraordinarily staffed organization.
What more could I ask for? Oh, how about a talented, engaged board like none other. As we prepare for a new adventure together into 2018, may I assure you that the guidance your board provides is relevant. Is alive. Is engaged. Leaders from many sectors are “in the game,” repeatedly demonstrating their willingness to go beyond the call of duty in service to your organization.
And then I turn inwards and consider my staff. Nowhere am I seeing more change – and resultant the growth - than from within our four walls. This team has worked tirelessly on your behalf this year, amidst many shifts! Most certainly, it has been a challenging season during the transition of leadership, but I know you will agree that Mindee Kastelic and the entire team executed the work of the Chamber with grace and professionalism. We couldn’t have asked for more.
- Mindee Kastelic served devotedly as your interim president for 5 months this past summer. She did so with panache, with grace and selflessness. Again, her commitment to SPACC, so often demonstrated behind the scenes, reflects her unwavering devotion to you and to our mission. As she continues to grow and represent our members, she has been promoted to the Vice President of Strategic Development. She builds strategic relationships like none other – and I know you understand this, because she knows YOU!
- Amanda Faletti has been with SPACC now for 13 years. I have known and admired her for years while I was at the Saint Paul Port Authority, and have been so grateful for her steady presence – and joyful approach to serving both you and our team. She has been promoted to be my Chief of Staff, my right arm, our internal leader. Truthfully, she manages me. And I know you understand how important that is!
- Shannon Watson joined Marie Ellis on our public affairs team in October. Each chamber has its own “flavor;” SPACC considers the work of advocacy on your behalf as our “Job #1.” You will find Shannon to be smart and hard working. She already has added great value as we prepare our 2018 Public Policy Agenda. As I put it, we are continuing to move “upstream” in our tackling of tough issues and in adding our voice to both business and community issues. Shannon will be a very strong addition to this work moving forward.
- Channon Lemon, our new Vice President of Economic Development, is the newest addition to our team. You have been calling for real advancement in downtown revitalization. Her local roots and national voice bring fresh ideas to that work. Together we are strategizing with partners to harness our incentives, inventory real estate options, and woo new companies into our downtown market. Full Stack, our partnership with the City of Saint Paul to target high tech and entrepreneurial companies, is her “baby” as well as the task of helping to shape a shared vision for downtown St. Paul economic development and executing effectively to achieve wins. With strong business acumen and a track record of success, she is up for the task. If you haven’t met her yet, plan to do so in the near future. You will be inspired.
- We will welcome 2018 with two MORE new faces to our team. Flip Seifert and Raquel de la Bastide will join us as account executives. Those of you who know me already have heard of my intention to pursue an increasingly diverse membership. Mindee finally will have a team, partners on either side of her, to broaden our engagement and strengthen our voice.
- We do end the year on two notes of mixed joy/sadness. Renae Bugni, our accountant, will be leaving us at the end of this month to work full time at the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is the quiet servant, who – since 2015 – has helped Matt get our financial processes in order and ensure that we are extraordinarily sound financially. She deserves your thanks, even though you probably weren’t aware of how important her work has been. MRCC is lucky to have “won” her, and I know they are aware of this! We wish her all the best.
- Our second sadness-for-us-joy-for-another comes with the announcement that our Public Affairs Director, Marie Ellis, is leaving SPACC to devote herself full time to the joys of motherhood. I celebrate her choice, and wish her well. That said, you can imagine my dismay at losing such a talented, smart, strong professional. We will survive, but she will be missed. Greatly.
A GLANCE INTO 2018: CASTING A WIDER NET
I look into 2018 and feel great optimism for the possibilities ahead. In this season of reflection and gratefulness, may I pause to thank YOU for believing in the art of the possible, in the strength of our united voices.
Our priorities in 2018 will continue to focus on work that drives jobs into the east metro: transit, workforce and business development. Themes you will be hearing more about:
- Equity is an imbedded value, and the lens through which we view all our work. Look for more intentionality in our programming, culminating with an Equity Conference at the end of 2018.
- Community development is a tactic, a mindset, and an outcome. Tomorrow’s leaders will come from today’s neighborhood. We will be broadening our conversation and our work to ensure we are partnering in that work.
- The bottom line for SPACC is our work to create an environment that supports a vibrant, empowered business community that drives jobs into the east metro – we know that the most direct path to equity is a good-paying job. We will be driving that work.
We are committed to being thoughtful.
We believe in and will shepherd in more opportunities for civil discourse.
We will leverage all we have to advance business and community opportunity development.
We will be casting a wider net. Join us!
We CAN do well by doing good.
We thank you for the chance to work with you and we wish everyone a wonderful 2018
B Kyle and Team