GPCC President & CEO Todd Sanders

The Chamber gathers annually in June with our members and other business, community and political leaders for our Annual Luncheon to highlight the successes of the past fiscal year, outline plans and priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, hear from a dynamic speaker and give special recognition to Chamber members who have provided exemplary service to the organization.

It was my great honor this year to get to present the President’s Award for Distinguished Service to David Bruno of ZRG Partners LLC, for his passion and servant leadership on behalf of the Chamber. This award is particularly noteworthy because it is not presented every year. In fact, this is the first time I have presented the award.

The Chamber staff also chose three outstanding Chamber members to be recognized as our inaugural “Chamber Champions” for their dedication to helping the Chamber further its goals in pursuit of a strong Greater Phoenix region.

A hearty congratulations and heartfelt thank you to our inaugural Chamber Champions: Michelle Bolton of Cox Communications, Russ Johnson of Merchants Information Solutions and Jeff Stelnik of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. Your work on behalf of this Chamber is vital to moving this organization and the business community forward.

We also presented our Annual Report and highlighted the great fiscal 2017 we had, which was one of our most successful years on all fronts, including economic development, public affairs, events, membership, operations and budget.

Our Phoenix Forward collaborative economic development initiative eclipsed 2,000 business visits this year. An amazing 88 percent of those business owners rate the business climate as “good” or “excellent” and almost 70 percent project their revenue to increase during the next 12 months. This great news is a testament to what can be achieved when organizations work together.

In addition, the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation’s five workforce collaboratives are convening industry leaders to tackle workforce shortages in targeted sectors using the U.S. Chamber’s Talent Pipeline Management strategy.

This year, our robust public affairs program resulted in 37 Chamber supported bills being signed into law this year while stopping 23 bills deemed detrimental to the business community.

In addition to highlighting organizational successes, keynote speaker Craig Drew of Southwest Airlines regaled the audience with tales of how the airline’s “scrappy” roots enabled it to weather early storms and become the nation’s largest domestic airline by passengers boarded with 720 planes and 55,000 employees.

“Our vision is to become the world’s most loved, most flown and most profitable airline,” Craig said.

The secret? “We do it with our people,” Craig added.

Craig and the team at Southwest Airlines spend a lot of time and effort on creating a culture for success. Southwest employs its own cultural services department that celebrates employees’ and company successes with events and awards.

His advice to business owners is to recruit for attitude, keep employees happy (who, in turn, keep customers happy) and be willing to adapt to changes in the workforce. Hiring millennials? Do something to enable them to be recognized individually, he said.

Craig repeated a version of “our people are our single greatest strength” and “we hire people for attitude. Attitude is everything” several times. He’s right. It shows in Southwest’s employees, public perception and bottom line.

So I will end by thanking my own Chamber staff, who works tirelessly each day to achieve our goals and support our members. You are our greatest strength!

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