As of the publication of this week’s paper, the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County is preparing to co-host an event with the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce and Teach for America. Like many groups and organizations, the LKG Regional Young Professionals Network (shortened to YPN, a partner effort started between the two aforementioned Chambers) was interested in hosting a welcome event for new Teach For America corps members coming into the area. This welcome event comes on the heels of the announcement that the LKG Regional YPN has received a grant from the county commissioners in Warren County to help pilot the program. 

This feels like a good time to write about partnerships and partnering across sectors. 

Within the YPN and this Teach For America welcome event alone, the situation is entirely based on partnerships. The LKG Regional YPN partnership between the Chamber of Warren County and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber grew out of a desire to hone and build connections among one of our more mobile populations in the area - 21- to 40-year-olds. YPNs are a common program in Chambers around the nation. And while both Chambers have their own unique organizational interests, the overlap in service areas and goals created an obvious need to work together. In a rural area such as ours where professionals might live, work and socialize in multiple counties, and with both Chambers serving Warren County, the partnership is a natural fit. The grant money from Warren County that will help pilot the program is a partnership of sorts across sectors - public and nonprofit. The welcome event mentioned above pulls in yet another partner, Teach for America, whose presence in Warren County is a whole separate example of working across sectors. 

And if you want to get real big picture, it’s also a type of partnership between the individuals that participate, and the businesses that help host events, in an effort to build community connection while delivering on goods and services. 

The ultimate goal being to work together to increase the impact of our individual programming and working to achieve our individual missions, while acknowledging intersections and working within our common interests. 

Partnering is not a new concept by any means and neither is working across sectors (public, private and nonprofit); however, we’re at a point where refusing to acknowledge intersections and limiting our businesses and agencies to working only in sectors with similar tax statuses can really hold us back from growth and progress. 

I recently read an article in the April 2014 Atlantic magazine titled “Why cities work when Washington doesn’t: the case for strong mayors,” which focused on the successful planning of Greenville, S.C. and Burlington, Vt., and the efforts of public-private partnerships in those cities. South Carolina and Vermont probably couldn’t be any further on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and these cities reflect that (35 percent of folks in Greenville County voted for President Obama compared to more than 70 percent in Burlington). Yet both of these cities share very similar histories of public-private partnerships and in creating downtowns and waterfronts which are known nationwide for their success in city planning.  

Success and progress do not always have to be politically tinged. Success and progress for city growth (or insert whatever scenario applies: county, town, organization, business) can happen when folks come together on common goals and reach across the aisle to work together.  

If you’re interested in learning more about the LKG Regional Young Professionals Network, or other happenings at the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County, contact Charla Duncan at 252-257-2657.

Chamber Connections is a monthly column by the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County.