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Thankful for a Community that Thinks Big

Advocacy in Action logoThanksgiving is arguably the best of all holidays. It’s about family and friends and neighbors. It’s not about giving the perfect gift, or dressing up in the most innovative costume, or delivering an epic romantic gesture. It’s about celebrating the blessings in our lives. Of course, it’s also about food. Lots of food. At the Chamber, it’s easy for us to point to the numerous businesses and employees that we see doing great things in our community. We have the privilege of partnering with hard working, innovative, generous, creative, dedicated Chamber members every day. Here’s a birds eye view of some of the things to be grateful for around here (Tip: If you attend any of our Advocacy in Action events, you're already in the loop on this).

Thinking Big about the future of our community:

Members who attend our Public Policy Committee meetings (which are open to all members, by the way) have been staying in the loop on the progress of the Waterfront Holland project. This long range planning process is a fascinating look at the different pockets of neighborhoods that border Lake Macatawa, and how planners are taking a holistic approach to where our waterfront is headed. It’s more than the JDY property. This community’s downtown evolution is a result of this same type of careful deliberation and planning. It’s not about instant gratification. It’s anticipating the needs of our area (commercial, housing, recreation, environmental) for future generations, and implementing slowly to allow community adaptation and adjustments as needed. It’s visionary.

Another thing we learned about at our most recent Advocacy in Action events (Legislative and Public Policy events fall into the Advocacy in Action category) is the results of MACC’s traffic study. Whether you’re a civil engineer or not, this is relevant stuff. It’s another example of how our community leaders are looking at ways to improve quality of life. A concept that was presented is that of creating “Complete Streets.” It’s looking at roadway uses for users other than cars, and making sure that our roads serve pedestrians, cyclists, mass transit vehicles and commercial trucks equally, in the areas that most need to serve those populations. Things like one way streets, cross walks and bike lanes are discussed. Roundabouts always come up. They’re coming! Join us at the next Public Policy meeting to stay up to date.

At this week’s Governmental Affairs Breakfast, we invited a panel of school Superintendents to discuss talent development. This is a pain point for so many employers around here, and this conversation focused on how the schools are feeling the talent crunch as much as everyone else. Education as we know if from our youth is an entirely different creature now, and schools need teachers prepared for the diverse learning strategies that set the children of today (and tomorrow) up for success. Shannon Brunink (Black River School), Brian Davis (Holland Public Schools), Cal DeKuiper (Zeeland Public Schools), Dave Tebo (Hamilton Schools), Tim Travis (Saugatuck Public Schools) and Doug VanderJagt (Hudsonville Public Schools) were all there to help our members learn and understand, and to answer questions. Across the board, these educators reflect a passion for education and for the best opportunities for the children in our community. It’s definitely something to be grateful for.

Now that Michiganders have passed the recreational marijuana proposal, making it legal in the state, our members have been reaching out to ask "what's next?", and we scheduled a special public policy luncheon to address the issue. The Chamber Lerning Lab was full as members from a variety of different industries and business in both the public and private sectors came together to hear an update. Don Lawless from Barnes and Thornburg walked us through the finer details of what the initiative contains. He also looked at the relationship between a drug that's legal in Michigan but illegal on the federal level, and gave examples of how other states are interpreting and managing legalized marijuana, both for medicial and recreational uses. Finally he shared best practices and policies, particularly as they relate to OSHA, unionized employers, unemployment benefits, and the ADA. Getting handle on the rights of our employers impacts all of our members, and this is just the start of many more conversations to come on this issue.

Those are just a few of the interesting things that we learned about this week. They are all important issues in our community, and the Chamber is the place to keep up to speed with projects and programs, and to have the opportunity to voice your opinion. Don’t panic if you weren’t in attendance this past week! These opportunities are available to our members on an ongoing basis. In December, it's our Breakfast with our Congressman - Representative Bill Huizenga event on December 17. Most months there are at least two Advocacy in Action events, and we invite you to join us and stay connected. There are a lot of great things going on in this amazing place where we all live, work and play. We’re grateful.

Advocacy in Action is the umbrella for the Chambers Legislative and Public Policy events

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