Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Different Organizations – Different Missions

I’m still surprised to come across business people who don’t grasp the differences between organizations like DCVB, Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham Inc. Of course, what you don't understand, you can't leverage and these organizations have stakeholders in common.

Some might be confused because in some very small towns, there is often just one organization that tries to do everything until the size of the community along with the intensity and complexity of the roles nearly always dictate separate organizations. While each of these organizations is invloved in a type of community or economic development, these organizations are inherently different--both in makeup and mission—so a clear division of effort just makes good sense.

Of course, none of the organizations probably do as good a job as they think they do in differentiating for stakeholders. There may be a sensitivity that if we do, some may dismiss it as a turf issue instead of clarification of the division of effort.

And frankly, we have to remind ourselves on occasions. Organizations can be allies without being identical, attached at the hip or overlapping. I think we’ve accomplished that here in Durham.

DCVB, the Chamber and DDI are all in some way Durham messengers, along with 16 other organizations. While that doesn’t mean they do the same thing, it does mean it is important they speak in a consistent and compelling voice about Durham.

  • DCVB is a tourism development authority set up by the General Assembly and local government to serve as the community’s marketing agency. Its primary role is promoting what is called “demand-side” visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

    DCVB doesn’t attract businesses to relocate, although 70-80% personally experience Durham as a visitor first. DCVB focuses on drawing the customers that make businesses and organizations sustainable while letting the marketplace do the rest. DCVB must represent the entire community so it is not membership based. Its governing body is publicly appointed to broadly represent the community and its structure is a public authority similar to an Airport Authority.

  • The Chamber is a private advocacy organization working on behalf its dues-paying members specifically and the business community in general.

    It makes sure businesses, small and large, have a seat at any table on issues affecting commercial activity and commerce. It also contracts to help the County’s recruitment of new and expanding businesses or what is called “supply-side” economic development. It is membership based with a privately appointed, membership-elected Board and structured as a 501 (c) (6) nonprofit organization.

  • DDI is also a private, advocacy organization formed to help spur continued downtown revitalization. It is membership based with a privately appointed board, and shares in common with the Chamber a 501 (c) (6) nonprofit status.

    The City and County provide funding to DDI in part to advocate back to them improvements that will move downtown forward. It also serves as a liaison for private developers to generate supply side economic development in the central business district.

Businesses large and small should support all three organizations and understand they each play a key but different role and that they make every attempt to coordinate and leverage respective strengths and missions. What they share in common is the Durham brand and helping Durham grow while retaining the qualities and place based assets that make it distinctive.

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