Community Solutions Summit: A “Why” Behind a Chamber of Commerce

article by Samantha Roberts | Director of Marketing and Communications, Eugene Chamber of Commerce

One of the most common questions I get from folks when I tell them I work at the Chamber of Commerce, is “what is a Chamber of Commerce?” Putting aside my pride as the Director of Marketing and Communications (we clearly need to step up our communications efforts), I often tell them about all the work we do to connect together local business leaders, forge pathways to innovation and belonging, and the work we do to support our local workforce and prosperity for all.

Honestly, it’s a lot of word salad.

At the heart of our long days, busy schedules, and breadth of offerings, is the “why” behind all that we do: we are here to support business in Eugene and our region. “Support” can mean different things to different people. Chambers of Commerce are simply organized groups of local businesses working together to make sure our community can live happy, healthy, and prosperous lives.

It’s no secret that one area our community has struggled with for years is homelessness and public safety. Addiction and property crime are often not far behind these concerns, and aside from the humanitarian crisis living on our doorsteps, the impacts to local businesses cannot be understated. 

As an organization here to support the needs of our business community and members, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce made a big leap of faith in 2021 to begin tackling this issue with the goal of generating cross-sector support and collaboration to make homelessness in our community rare, brief, and non-recurring. Yet many in our community have asked: Why would you use precious member resources on this particular topic? Why not focus on workforce development? Taxation? What about economic development?

Fair points. But the truth is, as we’ve discovered from local business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and those that are currently unhoused, at the intersection of all the work we want to do to support our members, is the same issue at the crux of homelessness and public safety: we need housing

We need affordable housing to support talent recruitment. We need housing to support a stronger tax base. We need housing to support new economic endeavors. We need diversity in the types of housing we offer; housing that is affordable to a wide range of incomes. 

Addressing the issue of homelessness through the lens of housing and workforce development, we are engaging a cross-sector strategy of humanitarian support that increases livability for all. And, while housing is a top concern, we know this is an interdisciplinary issue requiring collaboration across efforts including increasing food security, access to medical care, mental health supports, and beyond.

We have been up to a lot since the first report came out in 2021. And we can’t wait to bring our community an event that brings us all to the table on this issue.

On September 26th we are launching a first-of-it’s-kind Community Solutions Summit. Through this event, we will bring to the table decades of community organizing efforts, business concerns, and our work over the past several years, to educate and inspire local leaders to collective action.

At this event, we will sit together and learn about the heart of what drives homelessness, where our community stands with access to mental health, leaps in local workforce development for the unhoused, cost/benefit analysis reports, and more. Those coming to the table will network with industry and nonprofit leaders to expand our collective work to improve livability in Eugene. 

We are more powerful to affect change when we do it together.

The real question is – will you be at the table?

Published On: August 29, 2023
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