Sacramento Metro Chamber celebrates accomplishments and focuses on future agenda

Jeff vonKaenel

Last week I followed the impeachment trial—or should I say the non-trial—of President Donald Trump, and on Jan. 31, along with 1,000 other Sacramentans, I attended the 125th Sacramento Metro Chamber dinner and business Awards at the Hyatt hotel.

There were Republicans and Democrats at both events. But as opposed to the U.S. Senate, at the chamber gala they were actually talking to each other. Perhaps too much; 1,000 people can make a lot of noise.

The chamber gave out awards, but while it is a business organization, these are not business awards. Instead, the chamber recognizes those people and organizations that made a positive difference in our community.

The Sacramentan of the Year award went to Kevin Nagle for his efforts to bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento. Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President Patricia Rodriguez and Five Star Bank CEO James Beckwith were recognized for their extensive community involvement. Nonprofit leaders Debra Oto-Kent, founder of the Health Education Council, and Bill Mueller, CEO of Valley Vision, received special praise for years of service, as did Verna Sulpizio-Hall of Metro EDGE. Honey was the Small Business Award winner. And finally, the Sacramento Salvation Army went into the Centennial Business Hall of Fame.

The awards were the backdrop for Metro Chamber CEO Amanda Blackwood's speech. Since becoming the chamber's president and CEO in May 2018, Blackwood has been leading its transformation away from being a business organization focused on electing conservatives towards being an organization that builds up the whole community.

Blackwood said that in 1895, when the chamber was first established, the then-mayor of Sacramento, Bernard Steinman, said that at the heart of any world-class city was its chamber. He went on to say that the chamber was essential to the fabric of this community, not just to promote trade, but to help push community progress that might otherwise be neglected.

Blackwood called for the 2020 Chamber to envision a community that finds a sustainable solution for the homeless, has affordable housing and creates economic development in all our neighborhoods. She promotes an agenda that I believe both Steinman in 1895 and Mayor Darrell Steinberg in 2020 would support.

“A community is a tapestry of people, people with different views, with different talents, with different experiences that when woven together make us so much stronger than we would ever be alone,” Blackwood said. She reminded us of a proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I support her vision of the chamber. It should be our community's big tent. The business community plays an important role in creating a world-class community that works for business, as well as for employees, young people and all its citizens.

This includes ensuring that sufficient community resources are dedicated to our schools, our transportation system, our flood protection, our arts and our community's safety net.

Each year, the chamber sends a large delegation to Washington, D.C., for the annual Cap-to-Cap event. Maybe it's time for D.C. to send a delegation here. In 2020, I believe we in Sacramento will get more done.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.