Last month I got a chance to say thanks to all the business owners that attended the annual Kent Chamber Dinner. For a City Manager, it doesn’t get much better than being in a room full of Kent’s best and brightest business minds to celebrate a year full of economic success stories. Best of all, I got to personally recognize Paul Braden of Woodsy’s Music Store and Kevin Lewis of Portage Community Bank for their unique cntributions to Kent’s economic vitality — which is what the dinner is all about.
The annual dinner is one of those rare times when all sorts of business people –representing businesses big and small, with diverse backgrounds ranging from manufacturing, architecture, retail and even education — come together to celebrate the one thing they all have in common: business in Kent.
The dinner is a break from the daily grind and gives our business people a chance to share some Kent comradarie and pat each other on the back for another year well done. It’s a chance to check out the new kid on the block, see who’s still standing, and who’s walking proud after all these years.
The business world is a tough place, and today’s hyper-competitive, “faster better cheaper” global economy leaves little room for old fashioned local business networking, much less for anything as extravagant as an actual personal conversation, a shared meal and a few laughs. It’s not that these things are any less important, they’re just victims of the time compression that modern technology has incited, squeezing us a little more every day.
That’s why I think the role of the Chamber is more important now than ever before. At a time when a click of a mouse can take us around the globe, it’s easy to lose those daily business connections that are the heart and soul of our business community. The Kent Chamber is out there working every day to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Our global opportunities are amazing today, and they can be wonderfully distracting, but no matter how far we stretch, we are still bound by our local roots. Thankfully, Chamber Director Dan Smith tends to those roots, making sure they’re strong enough to allow Kent’s businesses to reach higher than ever before.
Dan is equal parts business advocate, Kent marketer, information broker, networking guru, and champion for local businesses. He’s the one that shows up for all the ribbon cutting ceremonies. He gives Kent businesses a face and a voice that is heard when it needs to be heard. And he recognizes the power of food and drink to get us out to welcome new businesses after hours.
I suppose I relate to the Chamber because it’s role is increasingly similar to that of the government I manage. The Chamber, like your city government, doesn’t make business, but when it’s done right, it makes business better. The Chamber’s mission, like mine, is make sure that Kent has what it needs to be a dynamic business community.
Judging from all the awards that I saw given out at the Chamber dinner this year, it’s safe to say that business is getting better and better in Kent — in no small measure a result of the hard work put in by Dan and the leadership provided by outgoing Chamber President, Dr. T.N. Bhargava. Talk about a great one-two punch.
Neither one of them were bestowed any awards, but I know that they had a part in every award that was presented that night. So, in their honor, raise your cup and send out a cheer to your Kent Chamber Director and its outgoing President Dr. Bhargava.
And welcome in Karen Duffy as this year’s new Chamber President!