100 Years, Growing Greater

100 Years, Growing Greater

By Mike McDorman

President & CEO, The Chamber of Greater Springfield


The Chamber of Greater Springfield is celebrating 100 years, a Century of Growing Greater! I have come to realize what that important milestone really means is, “WE DON’T GET TO BE HERE LONG.” 

One could trace the origins of the present-day Chamber of Greater Springfield to 1865 when the Board of Trade was formed. Most, however, see the 1897 formation of the Commercial Club as the forerunner to the Chamber. Records show that the name was changed to Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 1, 1919. The Chamber’s first permanent offices were in what was originally known as the Lagonda Building on the corner of Spring and High Streets, but later was known as the Chamber of Commerce Building. Offices were moved to the former Shawnee Hotel in 1963, to the Riverbend building in 1981, and to our present location at Commerce Pointe in December of 2007.

When I look at a framed plaque of former chamber board chairs, I can only recall those who were involved as far back as the early 80’s. It proves my point, “WE DON’T GET TO BE HERE LONG.” 

Maybe the best way to sum up all the Chamber has accomplished during the past century happened during a chamber award ceremony honoring former board chairman Bob Warren when he said, “During my 32 years volunteering at the chamber, sometimes we moved forward, and sometimes we didn’t.”

That one quote has stuck with me during my time here at the chamber. We most likely will not be remembered 100 years from now, but our actions or inactions will be. Leland Shuler, a former Springfield mayor and Ohio Edison line foreman, who recently passed away at the age of 91, lived by the saying, “People will forget what you said.  People will forget what you did, BUT PEOPLE WILL NEVER FORGET HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.” Leland Shuler was a great man, but he lived the way he did because he knew, “WE DON’T GET TO BE HERE LONG.” 

As we look ahead to our small part in the next 100 years of Springfield and Clark County’s story, we must realize that fact, and work closely together to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us while addressing the day-to-day challenges that are always with us.

Former Wittenberg University President and local historian Bill Kinnison put it to me this way at a lunch meeting several years ago. He explained the community had put plans together over the past few decades that for some reason were unable to move forward. He had surmised then that, “THERE IS A TIME FOR EVERYTHING,” and maybe now with new leadership it was Springfield’s time to move forward. I did not understand what he was saying to me then, but now with all the positive developments happening in and around our community, it is very evident to me he was right! 

As we move forward into what our part in the next 100 years will be, your chamber will be laser focused on 8 strategic areas that we hope will help drive your business or organization forward, as well as, help our community grow greater. They include:

  • Create and foster a Coalition of the Willing
  • Continue to Champion Key Community Initiatives
  • Build the Economic Engine
  • Cultivate the Local Workforce
  • Enable Local Business Success
  • Grow a Healthy, Thriving Chamber Membership
  • Enhance Quality of Life
  • Help Build an Attractive Destination for Fun & Entertainment

When attempting to accomplish something worthwhile like a strategic plan or community vision, a team of people seeking excellence in each of the identified areas must exhibit certain values in order to be successful. The values they show define who and what their organizations are and become as they are pressing on toward the ultimate goal. 

In my experience, it comes down to four fundamental values that drive success:

First, LEADERSHIP IS NOT SOMETHING, IT IS EVERYTHING! If you have heard of Jim Collins, author of best-selling books like Good to Great, you will know one of his favorite quotes, “Get the right people on the bus and in the right seat, the wrong people off the bus, and then figure out where to drive it.” Our community is blessed with some great, up and coming talent right now, so let’s make the most of it!

Secondly, TIME IS PRECIOUS, SO DON’T WASTE IT! Back to my theme, “WE DON’T GET TO BE HERE LONG.” The Chamber Team tries to read a couple books a year. Right now, we are reading a book by Carson Tate titled “Work Simply”. In it she says invest your time wisely. She describes a book called “The Lecturer” a friend asked her to read while she was writing her book. Tate explains, “It is about a professor who had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The book is not morbid or depressing, nor is it about dying.  It is about achieving your childhood dreams, overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing the moment. It is about living – fully living. Life and happiness are not about having more hours in a day, they are about more purposefully and intentionally using the hours we do have.”

Third, there is no “I” in team! The famous UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden said it best, “Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.” He also said, “A player who makes a team great is better than a great player.” I have been blessed to get up every morning and go to work with a great team of highly motivated and talented people!

Lastly, “Place your value in people.”  We have a saying at the chamber that goes like this, “If your business or organization offers almost customer service, you will end up with almost customers.”

In the book Disney U. How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, Van Arsdale France, founder of Disney Universities says this, “What happens “backstage” will end up “on-stage.” If we aren’t friendly with each other… smiling and saying, “good morning” and things like that, then we’ll have a similar attitude toward our guests.”

The Bottom line is our organizations and businesses all have a set of values in which we operate out of every day. Spend some time evaluating your organization’s values, and how they are impacting your overall results. Our community also operates out of a set of values that have impacted our ability to compete over the past few decades. As those values have begun to change, our ability to compete and win has improved. 

It will take every community player to buy into the right values for us to be successful in the long run. This is true not only in the good times we are experiencing right now, but also when we endure the not so good times as a community in the future. We must remember that we are all in this together, there will only be so many opportunities that come along, and the challenges will be with us every day.

The question at this very moment in time is, what are each of us willing to do together to help Springfield and Clark County grow greater with the understanding that we will only go as far as our values will let us, and we all should know by now, “WE DON’T GET TO BE HERE LONG!”