When Ann Silver took over the Reno and Sparks Chamber of Commerce a year ago, she quickly identified a challenge that many local chamber leaders face: She calls it the “cannibalizing of the chamber brand.”
There was a rise in new professional groups that presented competition for members, and, in her view, a need to take a fresh look at the question: What value proposition does a local chamber of commerce offer its members?
With a diverse and accomplished professional background—as General Manager of Radio City Music Hall, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada, and a lawyer—Silver does not shy away from being bold.
And she soon decided on a few things: With Reno having attracted the electric vehicle giant Tesla, the data storage company Switch, and an Amazon fulfillment center, the chamber had to pay more attention to the diversity of its members and issues that matter to millennials.
“The younger generation is very cause-oriented vs. product-oriented,” says Silver. “We have to wrap our arms around that as a chamber.”
She asked: “What is the one thing that we can do that no one else is doing?” The answer that emerged: Keep members informed about every side of an issue. “We need to get back to a nonpartisan, middle-of-the ground, educational approach.”
The Importance of Clean Energy
Among the issues Silver thinks the chamber needs to focus on is clean energy, which, as several reports have shown, is very important to the millennial generation.
In 2016, Nevada voters were presented with a ballot question in which they were asked if they wanted to change the state constitution to allow for greater choice in where they buy their energy. Seventy percent of voters said yes.
Silver now sits on Governor Brian Sandoval’s Energy Choice Committee, which is charged with tackling next steps in providing residents with more clean energy choices.
“From the standpoint of the chamber, my job is to translate what we’re learning about energy choice to the positive impact it is expected to have on consumers and local businesses—on the people who live here,” said Silver. “I have no doubt: If it’s good for people, it’s good for business.”