Every generation needs a new revolution. Thomas Jefferson said those words more than 200 years ago, but the notion has never been more true.

It's time for a revolution at the Columbus Chamber. The chamber is at a pivotal point in its 126-year existence. As the business climate and regional economic development practices evolve, so must the chamber. While staying true to its original mission of serving business, this organization must make a dramatic change to the way it operates.

Within Columbus2020, a bold and aggressive regional economic development initiative, the chamber now has a focused emphasis on the retention and expansion of local businesses.

What does that mean for the chamber? The bottom line is that, in its new role, the chamber must strive to grow the region's economy one business at a time through cost-effective solutions, services and connections to essential resources.

Priorities: 2011 and Beyond

Since April, the chamber has assessed challenges, opportunities and its value to the business community. Moving forward, the organization's goal is to provide the Columbus region with the best business-support ecosystem in the country, powered by a talented staff of knowledgeable service coordinators. Through this transformation, the chamber will target three key priorities:

Align the chamber to maximize its value to local business.

The chamber must reinforce its value and purpose in the Columbus region. In attacking this priority, the chamber will move to better leverage its staff strengths, as well as its board members' know-how. That means the team's structure, roles and responsibilities will evolve to increase services to members large and small throughout the Columbus region. This change is already under way.

Harness chamber expertise to help businesses.

A lot of expertise and experience lives within the walls of 150 S. Front St., Suite 200--the office the chamber shares with its partners at Columbus2020 and the Columbus Partnership. With experts on topics such as workforce, business research, public policy, business development, finance, marketing and sales, the chamber team can respond to most any question. If not, the staff can find the right answer or connection.

Of course, each business is different and requires different solutions and services. For example, one member recently was looking for a local supplier of plastic packaging. Within hours, a connection was made through the chamber's network. Now, one company has the specialized product it needs and another secured an important new customer. That is exactly how this organization can help businesses get to the next level of success.

To make finding business resources even easier, the chamber is developing an interactive business resource. Watch for the tool to debut on www.columbus.org, the chamber's website, in late 2011 or early 2012.

Build an existing business team to focus on the retention and expansion of local business as part of the Columbus2020 strategy.

The chamber will lead a targeted effort to contact area companies, build networks, listen for issues and opportunities, devise service strategies and help businesses grow. As it establishes a new team, including client solutions managers, the chamber will expand its resources to perform proactive outreach, research and support for business.

Specific goals are tied to this priority. The chamber expects to conduct more than 270 face-to-face interviews and survey 3,000 employers annually once the existing business team is up and running. The team also will create a structured, managed referral network to solve problems for companies experiencing difficulties and remove obstacles to growth. And the chamber will launch new business services to fill gaps that may currently exist. The deployment of the existing business team is one of the most crucial developments in the new chamber's strategy.

This is only the beginning. As the Columbus2020 initiative advances, more change can be expected. It's an exciting time to be in the Columbus region, and the chamber is proud to lead the charge to ensure this business community prospers and thrives in 2012 and beyond.

What will it take to move your business to the next level? Call on the chamber, and learn how it can provide the services and connections you need.

Michael Dalby is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber. He can be reached at (614) 225-6917 or michael_dalby@columbus.org.

Reprinted from the October 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.