|Brent Cooper, President of the NKY Chamber|
By Jessie Eden
The NKY Chamber of Commerce (NKY Chamber) is celebrating a win after increasing its membership by 18 percent in the last two years.
The NKY Chamber says this is a direct reflection of its focus on issues and programs that are important to their business members and the NKY Region. This includes issues such as workforce development, transportation, health, education and helping to champion the region.
“As we kick off 2020, it is a good time to reflect on the NKY Chamber’s Vision, which is to be the premier membership organization driving Northern Kentucky’s pursuit to be a world-class region to start, develop and grow thriving businesses,” said NKY Chamber President and CEO Brent Cooper, who was named president of the NKY Chamber in August of 2017. “We are standing on the shoulders of business and civic leaders that 50 years ago established a vision for the future where we collaborate as a region and are stronger together. I am confident that in 2020, that Vision will be even more clear.”
Cooper, also the founder & owner of C-Forward, a Covington-based Information Technology consulting firm, said he is thrilled with the NKY Chamber’s growth because he has seen first-hand the impact the NKY Chamber has on local businesses and the region as a whole.
A Covington resident, Cooper has been involved with the NKY Chamber as a member since 1999 and as a board member since 2004. “I’ve found customers, vendors, employees and friends through the NKY Chamber. I’ve lived and breathed it. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing first-hand how the NKY Chamber works to lead, connect and advocate on behalf of our business community, and link the Northern Kentucky metro region together. We know that when our region collaborates and speaks with one voice, we have long term success.”
Since taking the reins of the NKY Chamber, Cooper recruited staff and volunteers that are passionate about the NKY region.
“I learned in owning and running my own business that you have to surround yourself with bright, focused, passionate, hard-working people, and that’s what we have at the NKY Chamber. When I look at what we’ve accomplished over the last two years, it relates directly to the great staff, Board, and volunteers we have. Our entire team, led by our Senior Vice President Gene Kirchner, have worked hard to break down silos and promote a culture of excellence. Any success we’ve had is really due to their efforts,” said Cooper.
The Net Promoter Score, a popular and respected management metric that measures customer experience and predicts business growth, has improved for the NKY Chamber. In the last two years, it has increased by 59 points. In context, the NKY Chamber’s score now rivals that of some of the most well-known and respected brands in the world.
“I’ve seen how important the NKY Chamber is to the region, and the positive impact it can have on businesses, especially small businesses,” said Gaby Batshoun, President and Owner of Global Business Solutions, a Newport based I.T. services firm. “Whether it’s tax policy, workforce issues, or cyber security, the NKY Chamber is there to speak out on our behalf. They promote the region, while recognizing the impact that smaller employers and communities have on the big picture.”
The NKY Chamber has also forged, formed and burnished working relationships, initiatives and shared goals with the region’s other growth organizations, such as Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, Northern Kentucky Catalytic Fund, Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance, Northern Kentucky Area Development District, Southbank Partners and others.
Other areas of success and focus include:
One of the first major initiatives spearheaded by Rhonda Whitaker Hurt (2017-18 NKY Chamber Board Chair) shortly after Cooper became President is GROW NKY (Growing Regional Outcomes through Workforce). GROW NKY is a strategic workforce collective comprised of leaders across key industries, educational institutions and community organizations working collaboratively to leverage the region’s assets to grow, attract and retain a globally competitive workforce.
GROW NKY’S areas of focus are:
· Kindergarten Readiness
· College & Career Readiness
· Adult Career Readiness and Lifelong Learning
· Talent Retention and Attraction
· Employer Policies and Practices
Led by Kristin Baldwin, the NKY Chamber’s vice president of public affairs and communications, the NKY Chamber has advocated on behalf on a number of important issues to Northern Kentucky businesses, residents, local officials, educators and others, including workforce development, curbing tobacco use, increasing voter turnout, transportation funding and more.
Baldwin is working in Frankfort during the ongoing Kentucky General Assembly legislative session, advocating for an agenda that includes increasing funding for infrastructure investment, continue pro-growth tax modernization, enacting sports wagering and increased and sustained funding for education and workforce development.
The NKY Chamber is also tackling politically sensitive issues to curb tobacco use for our current and future workforce. While the evidence is clear on the health benefits to stop tobacco use, there remains opposition on government’s role to limit use by citizens.
“We have some of the worst smoking and cancer rates in the country. It is killing our workforce, driving up health care costs, and negatively impacting our quality of life," said Cooper. "Our members have told us, loudly and repeatedly, that we need to advocate for policies that reduce smoking and vaping, and improve our collective health outcomes.”
Growth and prosperity are directly tied to improvements and expansion of infrastructure, and the Chamber is pushing for federal and state funding to complete the KY Route 536 east-west corridor, build new interstate exit ramps near the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport to accommodate the growth coming with the opening of Amazon’s massive airport facility and replace the aging, crowded and unsafe Brent Spence Bridge corridor.
The NKY Chamber has been leading a “One Voice” campaign, intended to inform Northern Kentuckians about the region, remind leaders around the state about the value of NKY, and help drive the conversation in support of increasing shared services among local governments and other public agencies. For example, the NKY Chamber advocated for the recent upgrade of the region’s 911 emergency dispatch systems.
ENGAGEMENT / EVENTS:
As with memberships, attendance at the many events sponsored by the NKY Chamber is also growing, including Eggs ‘N Issues, the NKY Chamber’s annual dinner, Women’s Initiative, legislative events and more.
According to Board Chair Dan Cahill, President of HSD Metrics, “The NKY Chamber’s quality programming is one of the reasons attendance is up over 40% the past 2 years. These programs are not only great networking events that help members connect, they are also important community conversations that are making a real impact on the region."
The NKY Chamber is also strengthening relationships with the various multi-cultural Chamber’s of Commerce throughout the Greater Cincinnati/NKY region. According to Cooper, “Many don’t realize that we are regularly doing joint programming with a variety of regional organizations, including the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the African American Chamber, the European American Chamber, Japan America Society, Chinese Chamber, Hispanic Chamber and the Indian American Chamber. We are working collaboratively throughout the region on everything from talent attraction to economic development.”
Other efforts to engage the broader community include reaching out and including six other regional counties – Grant, Gallatin, Pendleton, Owen, Carroll and Bracken Counties - in its advocacy and engagement efforts.
The NKY Chamber’s impact around NKY can be seen throughout the region.
“When you see art decorated bourbon barrels, local news promoting the region, regional and bipartisan get out the vote efforts, Leadership development and young professionals coming together, festivals such as the upcoming International Festival, Kentucky’s Edge and Blink, and events that foster important community conversations, just know that your NKY Chamber played a role,” said Cooper. “We don’t do anything by ourselves. We work collaboratively with partners, volunteers, and civic leaders in making those things happen. If it promotes business growth and an improved economy in NKY, we’re there. That’s what we do.”