Guest Editor – Reggie Bouthillier (LT 14)

I visited Tallahassee for the first time in 1993 and fell in love with this place. Two years later I transferred within my former firm leaving Miami to make Tallahassee home. As I look back over the last 21 years I’m very thankful for this community and the people that make it so special.

Leadership Tallahassee was at the beginning of this journey, and allowed me to learn more about Tallahassee and establish lifelong friendships. The experience was positively transformative. At the heart of Leadership Tallahassee is our community and the desire to improve it. Each year we bring together a new group of diverse leaders of many different backgrounds with the goal of cultivating this desire. There are countless stories of alumni giving back their time and talent to our community following their Leadership Tallahassee experience. Over the last 21 years I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many different community service organizations and efforts. Each of these experiences reinforced the importance of Leadership Tallahassee and the positive impact it had on me.

One of my current roles is serving you as Chair-Elect of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. OnOctober 1, 2016, I will be honored to serve you as Chair. Over the last 21 years I’ve watched our community grow and change in so many positive ways. As much as I love Tallahassee, no place is perfect as you know, and we also face many challenges. Today, I believe we are blessed with tremendous opportunities to continue positive growth and change, and propel our desire to confront these challenges. We must continue to improve our community. In many instances we can turn challenges into opportunities. This is not only the heart of the Leadership Tallahassee program, but also the Chamber. The Chamber represents 1,400 members comprised of over 50,000 employees. As such, the Chamber is the leading business organization in the Capital region.

As you’ve probably noticed in recent months there have been many changes at the Chamber. These changes are reflective of the Chamber adapting and planning for the future. The recent dissolution of the Economic Development Council (originally birthed by the Chamber) and the Blueprint 2000 Intergovernmental Agency’s assumption of the role as the economic development agency reflects the evolved outcome of the November 4, 2014 decision of 65% of Leon County voters who overwhelming approved a 20-year extension of the sales tax, which included 12% (estimated at $90.7 million) set aside to support economic development projects, programs, and initiatives. We are only one of two communities in Florida to take advantage of this opportunity. While this has been a dominating focus, I would encourage each of you to consider the other 88% (estimated at $660+ million) of these dollars which will be dedicated to major infrastructure projects throughout Leon County. The economic impact will be substantial. Your Chamber was forward-thinking years ago in supporting this outcome. This support was critical to the success of this economic opportunity.

These recent changes have not been without debate. Leadership is not designed to be easy, and at times requires difficult decisions in the face of evolving, dynamic circumstances. We know from experience that everyone will not agree. Your Chamber Board has worked hard to embrace change, debate the possibilities, and make the difficult decisions. I’m proud of our Chamber Board for their hard work and caring about the future of our members and this community.

As most of the dust settles from recent decision-making, the Chamber is looking ahead to the opportunities that lie in the wake of these changes. This will require that we continue to adapt and change as an organization. Front and center to this change will include a deep dive into strategic planning on how we can improve as an organization to better serve our members, and enhance the business community, the economic ecosystem, and our quality of life in Tallahassee. We will be transparent in these efforts as a Board as we tap into a diversity of opinions from our leaders and members, and embrace this next exciting journey in the future of our organization.

I hope to have the opportunity to work with you and encourage your input and feedback.

Thanks to each of you for your support of Leadership Tallahassee, the Chamber, and our community.

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