For more than 45 years, the Frisco Chamber of Commerce has been an entity that supports business. The vision of the chamber, however, has evolved over time.
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce was established in 1970. It was a volunteer-run organization with a part-time executive for about the first 25 years of its existence, chamber President Tony Felker said.
The first full-time president and CEO of the chamber came on board in the mid-1990s, said Felker, who became the chamber president in 2009.
Before the Frisco Economic Development Corp. was created in 1991, the business landscape in Frisco was much smaller than what it is today, Felker said.
The focus of the chamber before 1991 was also similar to what the FEDC does now, including economic development, business attraction and business retention and expansion, he said.
“Business back then was very, very different,” he said. “It was a bunch of folks that got together and wanting to be helping and developing the business community.”
Now that the chamber has the FEDC to partner with, the chamber can focus more on being an advocate for businesses, Felker said.
This year, the chamber tweaked its mission statement to say that the chamber protects and promotes commerce through advocacy, resources and connections. The updated mission statement is a part of the chamber’s 2016-20 strategic plan.
Felker said the chamber is moving past being an entity for ribbon cuttings and networking events. The major focus of the chamber’s role is to be a problem solver for businesses, he said.
“While the [FEDC] is mainly concentrated on attracting companies, it’s really [the chamber’s] role to make certain that once these companies are here—small, large, in between—that they have what they need,” he said. “If there’s anything keeping them up at night, we’re here to help try to take care of that.”
Felker said the chamber will address both seemingly small issues—such as calling the city to fix a standing water problem—and bigger issues for businesses.
Some of the bigger issues the chamber has gotten involved in recently include joining a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rule and becoming a party in a case against overhead power lines in West Frisco.
Taking a stance on governmental issues is a relatively new effort from the chamber’s board of directors, Felker said.
“Six years ago, people saw the chamber of commerce as a thermometer,” he said. “…A thermometer tells you what the temperature is; it doesn’t do anything about raising the temperature or cooling the temperature. Rather than a thermometer, I want to be the thermostat that actually turns the heat up or lowers things down and makes things happen.”
One of the key values of the chamber under the new strategic plan is continuous improvement so the chamber can be the best it can for the business community, Felker said.
He said this means the chamber has to be at the top of its game and not be soft when it comes to advocating for businesses.
“[The chamber has] no ability to regulate, tax, anything like that. So the saying is we are the most powerful powerless organization,” he said. “We have no power to do anything. But if we can take the resources that we have, the connections that we have, the leverage that we have throughout the community and if we can channel that in the right direction … it’s amazing what we can and have done over the years.”