Over the last 18 months, nearly every business conversation I’ve had has come back to a single topic: workforce needs. It’s the dominant conversation, and it will continue to be the dominant conversation for years to come — until we see a demographic change and we get more working-age people skilled in the industries we need. Loyal readers of this column know my passion for this workforce topic, as I’ve shared dozens of different ideas on how businesses can help themselves. The problem is, business leaders are so busy, stretched so thin or juggling so much that they may have read a past column and liked an idea but didn’t put it into practice.

I know what it’s like to be busy. A decent argument can be made that our chamber of one full-time employee and one part-time employee produces as much as any three- to four-person staffed chamber of commerce in New England. We punch above our weight class, and I’m proud of the work we produce.

Our chamber started tackling workforce almost 12 months to this day, with a Workforce Advisory Council comprised of 30 outstanding individuals from our local schools, local businesses and our municipalities, and we devised a plan. We created Chamber Works 2030 — a 10-year workforce initiative from which we selected three short-term and three long-term workforce programs to create in our region. It took all year to build it, but within the next 30 days, we’ll be launching the first workforce program with our partners, and the second program should follow within 30 days of that, followed by the third one. I’m excited and anxious to show them to you.

In October, in coordination with our local high schools and partners, we were recognized by the governor as having a best-practice workforce program. In two weeks, I’ll be speaking on a panel about our workforce collaboration. Next week, I have a call with five other regional chambers in the state that I’m handing over our entire workforce program to, so they can use it in their area. They don’t know how to answer their members’ questions about what to do about workforce, so I’m giving them the answers that we’ve come up with thus far.

I tell you all of that not to boast but rather so you know what’s happening — because if I don’t tell you, how will you know? I don’t do that enough. I don’t talk about the good things we’re doing as much as I should. I don’t send the press releases out so I can get trade association accolades; I’m too busy doing the work and solving the next problem. Honestly, as a small staff, I struggle with how boasting about the accomplishments of the organization looks like me saying, “Tell me how great I’m doing,” and I’ve always hated how ‘look at me” plays. However, if I don’t toot our horn, you won’t know — and in that way, I take some fault.

Sorry, we’re halfway through the column, and for those that haven’t figured out the headline, I should pay it off now. The affordable workforce solution for businesses of all sizes that will cost most of you under $900 and the rest of you under $2,000 is to become a member of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber.

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We launched our workforce program 12 months ago, and we’re finally about to unveil the first three programs. They would have been a whole lot more helpful six months ago. However, as a small staff, we got these to market as quickly as we could. Personally, I don’t think 12 months is good enough, but there were literally not enough hours in the day to get us launched prior to this with my other demands. But there could be. With a little more support we could have exponentially more impact.

So, what’s it worth to you? What’s it worth to have an organization solving your biggest need and offering other tips and solutions along the way? Chamber membership starts at $225 for the year for a sole prop and increases from there in tiers based on number of employees. Businesses with 21-40 employees is $600. That’s a radio ad package for one week. That’s a magazine ad in one publication for one month, and you get us for the whole year. That’s five tanks of gas.

On Jan. 15, we have a membership deadline, as we need to send our member directory to the printers for our 2023 guest guide. Sometime in February, I’ll take that list of current members and thank them in a large ad in The Times Record. I sincerely hope we’ll be listing your company on that list of members. If you don’t see your company’s name in that ad, ask your boss why.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the high-pressure sales guy — it’s not my nature. I don’t want to force you into this; I want you to choose it. In fact, that previous paragraph is one of the toughest pitches I’ve ever given.

Also, don’t take this as the chamber is not doing well — we’re doing great. At our current membership count and pace of growth, our chamber can support one full-time and one-part time employee (who will likely grow into a full timer by next fall). However, what if that part-timer could be a full-timer by March, and we could bring another full timer in by July — can you imagine how much more we could do?

We’re working on solutions to your biggest problem. Support us. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information on chamber membership or to check your membership status, email me at [email protected] or email [email protected] and we’ll get you the information. Or call (207) 725-8797. Chamber Works 2030 sponsorships and Cornerstone Membership sponsorships are also available.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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