Articulate August 2016

Leading The Transformation Of Greater Gainesville

Written By: Susan Davenport

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” – JOHN C. MAXWELL, “THE 17 IN DISPUTABLE LAWS OF TEAMWORK” (2001, 185)

In Greater Gainesville and across the globe, the way people live, play and do business is constantly evolving. Through the transformational leadership efforts of our educational institutions — the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, Saint Leo University, Alachua County Public Schools, City College and others — as well as our city, county, state and federal elected officials; talent leaders such as CareerSource North Central Florida; and the Chamber of Commerce and its volunteer leaders and members, Greater Gainesville is also evolving into a region that is collectively focused on better meeting the needs of businesses and residents.

The chamber is razor-focused on supporting this evolution and its achievements continue to raise the bar for business, education and talent success. In 2015, the chamber helped create nearly 300 new permanent jobs and successfully advocated at local and state levels for business climate improvements, including Southwest 62nd Boulevard’s designation as a top transportation priority with $9 million in allocation for the project. We also aligned the efforts of 26 leaders creating new opportunities for Alachua County businesses and students by facilitating the development and signing of the Alachua County Education Compact.

Leadership development represents another way the chamber is supporting our local evolution. In recent years, the chamber’s board of directors has observed that as Greater Gainesville advances in its transformation, the need for a wider spectrum of leadership development opportunities is also advancing. In 2015, the chamber looked to other regions and organizations for best practices in developing leadership programs designed to meet professionals at key points on their education and career pathways.

The chamber’s response to the need for a new and evolved way of encouraging and nurturing future and existing leaders is being rolled out in a new suite of programs designed to cultivate new leaders and help them connect and grow in Gainesville throughout their education and careers. In addition to Leadership Gainesville, the chamber’s 10-month legacy leadership program, the new slate of programs includes:

  • LG Next Gen: Created by a group of Leadership Gainesville Class 42 leaders, this program aims to inspire Gainesville youth to become future business and community leaders by teaching leadership skills, teamwork and work ethic while also providing a high-level introduction to Gainesville’s business community and the community at-large. As part of LG Next Gen, students will learn how to take on leadership roles and what it means to be an effective leader. Students will be encouraged to learn new skills, cooperate with others and take responsibility for shaping their futures.
  • Collegiate Leadership: This program will provide University of Florida and Santa Fe College students with exposure to economic, business and cultural dynamics in the city. The students will be led and mentored by chamber members who volunteer to nurture strong connections within the business community and facilitate a better understanding of what being a local business leader entails. The goal of this leadership program is to encourage the business leaders of tomorrow to become active and engaged within the community as they begin to shape their professional development.
  • #PluglnGNV: This program is designed for young adults who are professionally establishing themselves and may be new to Gainesville’s leadership scene. Designed as a community exposure program, #PlugInGNV will provide young professionals access to behind-the-scenes tours and information about the community’s greatest economic, civic and cultural assets.
  • Executive Leadership: Our most advanced leadership track, this program is created for corporate executives and top-level management. Participants will be provided with the opportunity to work alongside other experienced leaders to adopt new skills, make new connections and achieve shared goals.

Whether you are a student, young professional, mid-level manager or seasoned executive, you have the potential to play a leadership role in facilitating regional economic prosperity, business growth and community progress. Visit to get plugged into the chamber’s leadership development programs and seize an opportunity to get connected and succeed in Gainesville. There’s a seat at the table with your name on it. Come join us.

SUSAN DAVENPORT is President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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