Mayor’s Forum – Irrelevant or missed opportunity?

When is a public forum a waste of time?  You’d know the answer If you attended the recent Mayor’s Forum hosted by the Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce.  Their intention was good, but regrettably inadequately planned, managed and moderated.

The Chamber believes that hosting the annual forum fulfils its mandate of advocacy and leadership in the local business community.  It failed on both accounts.

Any forum that encourages dialogue and a productive exchange of ideas between government and business is laudable.  But if the Chamber doesn’t quickly make changes to how this forum is presented, its ineptness will push it towards irrelevance.

What’s to be done to save the forum from extinction?

  • Pick better topics.  If it’s not vital to the local business community, they won’t attend.
  • Make the Mayors do their homework.  Provide them a detailed agenda including key questions they’re expected to research and answer.
  • Plan the forum to generate actionable ideas.   Businesses want specifics not generalities.
  • Don’t let the forum get hijacked.  Use an experienced moderator to control the meeting, keep the discussion on track and allow for constructive discussion.
  • Ask for accountability.  Offer a process for the Mayors and the Chamber to follow-up and report on the actionable ideas.

As an aside, the only topic that should be on the agenda for the 2014 Mayor’s Forum is economic development.  In fact, it’s the only topic the business community really cares about.  Some municipalities have or are developing strategic plans that address economic development.  Owen Sound’s plan won’t be completed until 2015 – an inexcusable 4 years in the making.  More importantly, many in the business community are sceptical that any of these plans have any hope at succeeding.

Economic development is very much like a ‘business’ requiring many of the skills, instincts and acumen used by successful entrepreneurs.  It makes one wonder if the municipalities are up to the task.  The Mayors and municipalities could learn a lot by listening to what the local business community has to say on this topic.

That’s why a revitalized Mayor’s Forum is an opportunity not to be missed.  Not only would it demonstrate the leadership and advocacy the Chamber claims to represent, but would also make it a key player for growth and prosperity in the region.

Peter Reesor
red/white innovative marketing

 

One Response

I find it difficult to dispute or find fault with any of your thoughts. I have ‘. . . forwarded to the Chair of the Events Committee to have placed on their agenda for future event planning discussions regarding the Mayors Forum’.

Steven Coffey, President, Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce

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