By Dan Keppen, President
Chair, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee
The Klamath County Chamber of Commerce in recent years has pledged to find ways for members of our local business community to further realize tangible results from being a member of the Chamber. Towards this end, the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) has been increasingly active in recent years to monitor, engage in, and influence government policies that affect local businesses.
Small businesses are the key to the economic health of our community. Unfortunately, business owners face a number of significant challenges, including laws and administrative policies that emanate from Washington, D.C., Salem and local city and county governments.
Today, we spoke with Tashia Owen, owner of Tashi Soap Company. She shared her thoughts on Leadership.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
I have a few mentors that taught me many things that I looked up to, both in my personal life and in business. I’ll start with my dad. He taught me to respect others, to always make them feel valued, and to be grateful for the things they do for you in life, because everyone is placed in your life for a reason. Always say please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir, and shake their hand whenever you can. And he told me that I can do anything in life that my heart desires with enough dedication and passion. My mom taught me how to be a hostess; always ask if there is anything I can do for others or see if they need anything. And coming from a long line of many professionals, surgeons, hospital administrators, doctors, I learned that I had it in me somewhere to succeed greatly. My grandmother went through psychology school twice, once in Cuba, and again in the US during the bay of pigs after Castro took over. I always knew that I had to go to College and become something, so twice was nothing. She taught me to never ever stop learning, never be stagnant, always be eager to improve, and never assume that you know it all, and be the first to admit that you’ve made an error.
One of the priorities Chamber members regularly share is the need to improve the skills and dedication of potential employees entering or moving within, the local workforce. This need is echoed by economic development organizations as an important component in business recruitment and expansion efforts.
Due to member input, the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce has taken on a larger role in the regional and statewide programs that drive training and employment opportunities for prospective employees by engaging with businesses to understand future needs. Recently our involvement has increased with the rollout of four new workforce regions and a complete revamping of how programing is envisioned, should be managed, and delivered.
In the past, workforce development focused primarily on the unemployed worker in need of a job. At times that meant pushing large numbers of people through the system without jobs waiting on the other end. The economic recession highlighted this issue as more people were unemployed, or under-employed, and entered the traditional employment development system but without jobs to graduate newly trained workers to, quite a bottleneck ensued.
Last Thursday, Chamber staff, Government Affairs Committee representatives, and interested members traveled to Salem to meet with legislators and discuss pro-business ideas and agenda. Our group was joined by members from both the Medford/Jackson Chamber and the Grants Pass Chamber. Our goal was to represent the voice of business and lobby on behalf of business issues that could affect your business.
Our group met with many elected officials including Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney, both Democrats. They shared with us information on proposed minimum wage increases as well as mandatory paid sick leave - both bills that could have negative impacts to our local businesses (and business across the state). This meeting with Kotek and Courtney allowed business owners a chance to explain first hand the hardships these bills could create. One restaurant owner shared that should the mandatory paid sick leave bill pass, he would need to sell over 200 more hamburgers per day.
As representatives and senators, Democrats and Republicans, came in to visit with our group, it became clear that business owners need to pay close attention to the happenings in Salem and send emails and letters as appropriate and when necessary. Our Government Affairs Committee (GAC) watches legislation closely and meets on a regular basis to advocate on your behalf.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Kat: One of my very first Vice Presidents that I worked for in the credit union industry, Mary Beth Scott. I was a very young leader and she was so helpful to me in learning to discern the needs of other leaders around me and above me. In understanding their styles, personalities, and needs I can adjust my responses and create much more impactful outcomes.
In May, we will host the Maximum Impact Leadercast event at Oregon Tech. This exciting event brings world-renowned speakers together to share their knowledge and experience with you. As we countdown to Klamath’s premiere leadership event, we wanted to spotlight a few of our local leaders.
We’ve chosen a few leaders in our community and asked them to share their thoughts and ideas about leadership.
I recently conducted a workshop focused on one of the least utilized Chamber benefits - Basin Business. To begin with, I attempted to discover why more members aren't using it. The reasons are fairly simple:
- You don't know what Basin Business is.
- You don't know how to submit items for it.
- You don't know why you should use it.
- You don't know what to write about.
Fortunately, the answers are fairly simple too.
What is Basin Business?
Guest Blogger: Dan Keppen, President Family Farm Alliance and Chamber Board President
From a professional standpoint, I now have twenty six years of experience in water resources engineering and policy matters. Since the mid-1990’s, I have worked primarily in advocacy positions representing Western irrigators, including ten years as executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, over three years as executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), and four years at Northern California Water Association. In my decade at the Alliance, the organization has been asked to testify (by both parties) before Congress 45 times. I think this is some of the best evidence I can point to which supports how our organization is viewed nationally as a leader in the Western water arena.
I have lived in numerous communities in several states during the course of my life and career. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve been fairly active in community affairs. However, before moving to Klamath Falls in 2001, most of those activities were tied, directly or indirectly, to my work. That changed significantly when I moved to Klamath Falls. My first few years in the Klamath Basin were very stressful and intense, as KWUA was in the midst of one of the most controversial, high-profile water conflicts in the country. After the devastating water curtailment of 2001, KWUA and other leaders in the local community and our elected officials managed to keep water flowing to the farmers in the ensuing years. When I stepped down from KWUA in 2005 to start my own business, I felt a debt of gratitude for a community that openly shared its appreciation for the work we had accomplished during a very contentious period.
In fact, the work-related award I most cherish is the “First Citizen” award presented to me by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005. Prior to 2005, much of my “civic duty” commitments were applied in a variety of local, regional and national water and environmental endeavors, where I felt I could best apply my talents. After stepping down from KWUA, that changed. I felt an immense sense of gratitude towards this community that I wanted to pay back in terms of a much more local sense of “civic duty”.
There’s some shake-up happening here at the Chamber and we’re excited about where we’re headed. As we make announcements about our new focus over the next few months, we think you’ll be excited too.
To begin with, you may hear about changes to two events: the Snowflake Parade/Festival and the 4th of July celebrations. After much discussion, we identified two outstanding organizations to take on the organization, planning, and management of these events.
The American Legion Post 8 has taken on the Snowflake Parade/Festival this year. They’ve been identifying sponsors, adding some exciting events to the lineup, and will manage the parade. We’re excited for the energy and focus they’ll bring to the Festival.
Following an electronic survey to the Chamber membership that indicated strong support, the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce General Board has voted to publically endorse the Klamath Falls City School District bond measure 18-99. The measure will provide local funding for improvements to buildings and infrastructure in the City school district. The bond will raise $36 million, the bulk of which will be used to remodel and upgrade Klamath Union High School.
Over 20% of the Chamber membership responded to the survey and about 2/3’s of the respondents supported the bond and the Chamber taking a public position of endorsement. Survey respondents touched on the need to improve school buildings as part of economically moving the community forward, providing upgraded educational opportunities for our children, and finding ways to stabilize local property values. Improved schools meet all of these needs.