Articulate March 2017

Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Annual Meeting


Rory Causseaux coached up the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce as he assumed its chairmanship.

“The chamber plans to lead a team of leaders, citizens and organizations that are focused on advancing the Greater Gainesville region as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity,” he said at the chamber’s annual meeting, held January 31 at the Hilton UF Conference Center.

He distinguished between teamwork and collaboration. In collaboration, separate partners move in a similar direction that may – or may not – reach a common destination. “A team is focused on one goal, and it works together to achieve that one goal,” he said. “We have to leave the I behind for the We.”

Causseaux is the CEO of CHW Professional Consultants. He noted that he builds bridges – and other infrastructure – in that role. He called for the chamber to build a metaphorical bridge tying the community together in moving to a higher plane.

Moving to that higher plane of teamwork is essential for Greater Gainesville to compete in today’s global economy, he said. “Forget what you think you know about what the chamber wants, and know we have no preconceived ideas about what you want – other than what’s best for our region,” he said.

He urged his audience to put aside counterproductive tendencies – preconceptions, distrust, single-issue dialogues and closed-mindedness.

Moving from collaboration to teamwork is challenging, he said, adding, “We need acceptance, acceptance of our differences in philosophy or approach. We have to be able to communicate honestly on this journey and to be committed to not kicking anyone out of the car for their beliefs.”

The chamber is calling together a team of diverse people and groups to plan upgrades to school buildings – an effort called the “Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative.”

“Tell your colleagues, friends and family that we want them at the table,” he said.

Causseaux thanked 2016 Chamber President Todd Powell and 2015 Chairman John Carlson for leading accomplishments that he wants to build upon. Accomplishments in the past year include adding 268 members, helping create nearly 700 jobs, supporting the Hawthorne Jobs Center and founding the District 1 Business Council, which will bring more opportunities to East Gainesville.

Greater Gainesville is well-positioned to move forward, noted Chamber President and CEO Susan Davenport. Its assets include the state’s preeminent university, the nation’s top community college, the state’s strongest life science industry sector, the strongest base of technology startups and the most successful workforce board in Florida.

“We are a blue ribbon city that is quickly evolving into a one-of-a-kind national model for innovation,” she said. “We have everything we need to win the game for generations to come.”

The chamber honored University of Florida President Kent Fuchs with its Citizens of the Year Award – based largely on his leadership of UF’s Strategic Development Plan.

UF engaged stakeholders from both the university and the community in creating a long-term vision for integrating the campus with the city – with an emphasis on the area between campus and downtown.

“The plan will facilitate community research, strengthen neighborhoods, identify solutions to environmental issues and support a city arts initiative, Davenport noted.

Keynote speaker Bill Bates, who was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams as a Dallas Cowboy, recounted his journey to the NFL. He noted that he overcame the long odds of making the Cowboys although he was undrafted.

His take on setting goals was: “Dream as high as you can. You never know, you may just reach your star, like I reached mine.”


Senior Writer CHRIS EVERSOLE has been a keen observer of business, government and culture in the Greater Gainesville Area while living here over the past two decades. His experience includes work with the University of Florida and Alachua County Government. He also has been a journalist and public relations professional in the Tampa Bay and Sarasota- Bradenton areas, as well as in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

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