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Deputizing the Chamber?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

By: RDG CEO Clint Nessmith

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got” -Henry Ford

If you are leading a regional chamber, I’m willing to wager that in the last six months you have been asked by your business leadership, “What is the Chamber doing about crime and safety?” I also bet you have heard it more than just a handful of times. If you know RDG, you know we only work with chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, and with clients spread across the country, we can attest we are hearing this question posed to all our regional chamber clients.

What has been the sudden trigger? At a high level, I learned while listening in on a law enforcement panel hosted by one of our clients, that we are dealing with the perfect storm. Work from home means less people in the urban core. Less people coming and going from work and lunch and coffee runs has given rise to homeless populations feeling bolder about being in public spaces during the day. Additionally, just as COVID has played a role in disrupting the supply chain of goods and services you might buy at your local store, it has also impacted the illegal drug delivery operations, meaning there is less product which has led to more gang-on-gang violence as they attempt to obtain the supply they want, which is spiking murder rates. Now as employers attempt to bring people back to the office to work, many employees are pushing back saying they no longer feel safe working “in the city”.

I am writing about this topic to, one, make sure you know you are not alone in being asked to weigh in on this very difficult challenge. And two, I want to share the tactics we are seeing employed. Consider the following:

  1. Convene the leaders of all the major law enforcement agencies operating in your region, along with local government officials, to discuss shared needs and to enhance interagency communication and coordination.

  2. Coordinate funding requests and grant proposals to help purchase equipment identified as a priority need by law enforcement.

  3. Invite law enforcement leadership to present to your board, membership, and investors to discuss the challenge and share how it is being addressed.

  4. If developing a new strategic plan, ask your planners to consider how crime and safety might fit into your quality of place and talent pipeline development work.

  5. Deputize yourself and your staff - - okay, I made that one up. Though I am sure you sometimes feel like that is what is being requested of you and your organization.

In closing, I want each of you to know you are not on an island. Your industry peers are dealing with similar conversations. In my opinion, the Chamber’s most impactful role to play in dealing with crime and safety, as with many tough issues, is being the convener. A Chamber is almost always the most uniquely positioned organization in the market to pull together key leaders to find solutions. Stay well, and if you are planning to be at IEDC’s Leadership Conference and would like to connect, I’d welcome the conversation. You can reach me at and on my cell at (912) 536-2609.

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