The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, which spans Goleta to Carpinteria, is marking its “mergerversary.” Twelve months ago, the Carpinteria, Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers of commerce merged to form the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.
The mission of the new chamber was to help South Coast businesses, residents and visitors thrive by advocating for responsible public policy, offering networking and community-building opportunities, providing access to business development resources, and support visitor services.
“When we merged, it was at the height of the pandemic, and we felt strongly for the need to unify our efforts and voice to support our business community,” said Kristen Miller, president/CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce. “We are here to continue to advocate for our businesses on the road to recovery as we revitalize our local economy.”
Now, 371 days into the merger, the chamber celebrates all that has been accomplished including:
A dynamic group of volunteer leaders – Board of Directors: Together, the new organizational advisors included some 60 business leaders across the communities. In January 2021 the chamber held its first annual meeting, introducing a board of 40 business professionals representing diverse industry across the region.
Growing staff: When the organization merged in July 2020, it was a team of six; now there are 10 full-time and five part-time employees.
Volunteer working committees: The chamber has seven committees that help drive programming and keep the chamber connected with members and the community. The committees, made up of more than 200 chamber business members, include ambassadors, Carpinteria, economic development, executive, finance, hospitality, and public policy.
The chamber, which represents 1,100 businesses and 75,000 jobs in the community, thanks its members for the diverse industries that have entrusted the chamber with their investment. The chamber has added 66 new members since the merger, welcoming businesses safely with virtual ribbon cuttings.
Chamber Member Job Portal — In response to the workforce labor shortage, the chamber launched an online Chamber Member Job Portal to host job posting opportunities for member businesses on the chamber website. The Member Job Portal has more than 50 open positions listed currently and that grows daily.
Roadmap to Recovery — One of the chamber’s first major initiatives was to create a Roadmap to Recovery, identifying recommendations and markers that helped businesses and the community begin recovering from the impacts of COVID-19. The chamber convened business leaders across all sectors to build a plan that supported industries countywide. The chamber has initiated a Roadmap to Recovery Phase II to be shared in July.
Representing Business to Government: State of the City and State of the County— The chamber held a three-part State of the City Series featuring Carpinteria, Goleta and Santa Barbara in 2020 and 2021. They also covered the collective accomplishments and updates when, in 2020, the chamber hosted its first virtual State of the County.
In August the chamber will host the first in-person State of the County in which it will share a holistic view of timely, relevant and trustworthy information from elected officials and city leadership teams.
Virtual B2B Networking — Between the three pre-merge chambers, nearly 250 members networked monthly at B2B, Coffee and Connections, and Carpinteria mixers. In August 2020, the Virtual B2B networking event was launched for members to promote their businesses and connect with each other. Zoom networking became a way to stay connected, stay positive, and share business information during the pandemic. In total, there were 11 virtual B2Bs and 715 attendees.
Advocating for You – Public Policy at the City, County and State — Over the last year, the chamber has advocated for pro-business policies by issuing support to government bodies and elected officials on topics such as the future of State Street; Goleta’s complete streets program; support for the parklets and extension for outdoor dining in downtown Santa Barbara and Carpinteria; opposition of reach code ordinances; addressing homelessness impacts to businesses; school reopening plans; and support for a number of agencies on grant allocations. The chamber will continue to look for the right balance of public policies and business success.
Political action — In October the chamber released a voters’ guide and issued its first endorsements for the Carpinteria City Council and mayoral races; both endorsed candidates, Wade Nomura and Natalia Alarcon, were voted into office in November. Part of the chamber’s charter and mission is to connect business with the government in meaningful ways.
The voter’s guide is not meant to tell members who or what to vote for; it is to identify candidates and measures that are most aligned with the chamber’s pro-business mission, as it relates to the quality of life in our communities.
Tourism recovery — The chamber’s two visitor centers have served as a safe and smart information hub during the pandemic, providing PPE and resources for hospitality businesses as well as visitors. The hospitality team informed guests about business operations — what was open, what modifications could be expected, how to comply with current guidelines — allowing them to safely enjoy the community.
The centers have been a go-to resource, leading the efforts in recovering local hospitality businesses through promotion and up-to-date information for guests and locals alike.
Hospitality Santa Barbara — Shortly after the merger, Hospitality Santa Barbara (formerly the Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association) became a committee of the organization. This new structure allowed hospitality focused businesses from Goleta to Carpinteria to address concerns across the region including the impacts of homelessness, the recovery efforts post-pandemic, and the pro-business policies to support local restaurants, tour agencies, attractions, wineries, breweries, and lodging partners.
“It is remarkable to see all that has been accomplished by our organization,” said Kirsten McLaughlin, current board chair for the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, and market vice president for Cox Communications. “When you have such a dynamic team of individuals who are passionate about the success of not only our businesses but our communities, you get results.
“We have seen that this year through the program of work that the chamber has led.”
For more about the chamber, visit www.SBSCChamber.com or call 805-967-2500. For information about becoming a chamber member, email Michele Schneider at email@example.com.