Albert Einstein used his enormous brainpower to unravel the mysteries of the universe and calculate the way that energy and mass interact, but if Einstein were alive today even he probably wouldn’t have dared attempt to unravel the complexity of the structure and naming conventions of economic development organizations in Greensboro.
But now the forces that be in economic development have taken one big step in clearing up some of the confusion: The Greensboro Partnership has changed its name back to the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce – the name God intended for the group and the one it operated under for well over a century before changing it just over a decade ago.
Greensboro’s Chamber of Commerce branch was founded in 1877 and kept that name until it became the Greensboro Partnership in February 2005. Now, in 2016, it’s back to “Chamber” once again.
That one step will do a lot to clear up things for clients and prospects who until now have constantly been asking what the “Greensboro Partnership” was and what it did.
Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen announced the name change last month at the annual State of the Community luncheon at Koury Convention Center. This week he explained the motivation for going back to the tried and true nomenclature.
“We want folks to understand who we are from the get-go,” Christensen said. “People know what a chamber of commerce is and what it does, so it makes life easy when you talk to someone.”
He said the name change is already reaping benefits. Christensen said that, in the past, he and others in the organization would have to spend a lot of time explaining the name and the structure but now they have suddenly stopped having to do that.
The organization formerly known as the Partnership just moved its office from 342 N. Elm St. to the old Meyer’s Department Store building at 111 W. February One Place in downtown Greensboro.
Christensen said a brand new logo should help provide clarity as well.
“We knew we wanted to freshen up our look, with the new space and new situation,” Christensen said.
According to Christensen, the idea for the name change came from the Boulton Creative advertising agency.
“Boulton Creative said, ‘Would you consider a name change? We think you should,’” Christensen said.
He said that, in 2005, the organization began “doing business as” the Greensboro Partnership, and the name change back to Greensboro Chamber of Commerce only required doing away with the DBA practice.
David Ramsey, the vice president of economic development for the Greensboro chamber, said he can already tell the move was the right one. He said he was on a visit in Atlanta and he handed out a new business card – which was fresh off the press – and, for the first time, he didn’t have to then immediately launch into a conversation about what the “Greensboro Partnership” was.
Aside from the inherent confusion of the chamber of commerce being called a “partnership,” people also often confused the Greensboro Partnership with the Piedmont Triad Partnership – the other Greensboro-based economic development group with “Partnership” in its name.
The Piedmont Triad Partnership is a now private economic recruitment organization that was founded in 1991. It is charged with “connecting and leveraging the region’s leaders and assets to drive increased economic growth and jobs.”
In the past year, especially, confusion between the two is definitely not a good thing. In January, former Piedmont Triad Partnership CEO David Powell – who in 2013 made $323,000 in that position – was charged with felony embezzlement and obtaining property through false pretenses.
This area also has plenty of other partnerships, such as the Partnership for Community Care, the Partnership Project and the Guilford County Partnership for Children. Not to mention those, such as the Partners Ending Homelessness, that have some variant of partnership in the name.
Marlene Sanford, the president of Triad Real Estate & Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC), has been working for nearly two decades with the economic development community and she said the landscape has been very confusing over the years. She said people would say “the Partnership” during a presentation and there would be confusion as to which of many partnership possibilities the speaker was referring.
Even with the new name, there’s a question how all the names fit together. Though the name change from Greensboro Partnership to Greensboro Chamber of Commerce is being well received, there’s still plenty of confusion to go around since Greensboro and Guilford County have had such a large number of related groups morphing and shifting through the years. Even though the newly named Greensboro Chamber of Commerce clears up some confusion about what the group does, it should be noted that the chamber “umbrella” still includes plenty of subdivisions operating under different names.
Christensen said those “partners” will maintain their individual names and focuses. The chambers web page lists the Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, Action Greensboro, Entrepreneur Connection, and Economic Development as distinct operations.
Christensen said the new logo – a green and black G with an arrowhead on the bottom pointing upward – should help unify the various components in people’s minds.
Greensboro has been at no loss for economic development groups over the years such as Forward Guilford, Forward Greensboro, Downtown Greensboro Inc., the Greensboro Economic Development Partnership, the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance and on and on.
It should be noted that none of this is to be confused with the newly formed Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA), made up of the GCEDA Leadership Board and the GCEDA Business Advisory Council. The GCEDA was created jointly by Guilford County and the cities of Greensboro and High Point to promote business and economic recruitment countywide.
This community’s economic development landscape has shifted in very confusing ways over the years. As one example, here’s a line from a Jan. 31, 2003 Triad Business Journal article titled, “Another name change at Forward Greensboro.” The opening sentence reads, “The Forward Greensboro Economic Development Partnership, formerly the Forward Guilford Economic Development Partnership, will now be known as the Greensboro Economic Development Partnership, the group said.”
That organization later changed its name from Greensboro Economic Development Partnership to Greensboro Economic Development Alliance.
Sanford said that people were confused by having both the Greensboro Partnership and the Greensboro Economic Development Partnership, and for that reason the name of the Economic Development Partnership was changed to “Alliance.”
Sanford said the name change back to Chamber of Commerce comes as a breath of fresh air to officials in the economic development community who are often forced to spend much of their time explaining the names, which group is which and who someone should contact if they’re considering locating in Greensboro.
“This is a good idea,” Sanford said of the name change. “We all spend too much time explaining, to those both inside and outside the community, the organizational structure of the economic development community.”
She said that, over the years, she’s had countless conversations that have “sucked up a lot of time” that could have otherwise been used productively to promote economic development in the area.
Now everyone will able to use that time to discuss important matters, she said.
“Everyone in the country – maybe even the world – understands what a ‘chamber of commerce’ is.” Sanford said.
Her own organization, TREBIC, also has an unusual name. It’s a trade association for investment real estate that lobbies for the interests of that industry.
For many years, the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance, under various names, was headed by President Dan Lynch, who stepped down from that role about a year and a half ago.
Just over a decade ago, there were major shifts in the economic development structure. In early 2004, the Greensboro Economic Development Partnership elected Dennis Glass as chairman of its board of directors. A month later, Glass became CEO of Jefferson-Pilot. Glass helped push for the name change from Greensboro Chamber of Commerce to the Greensboro Partnership and for a restructuring of area economic development, and, after successfully doing so, he turned around and oversaw the sale of Greensboro-based Jefferson Pilot Corp to Pennsylvania-based Lincoln Financial Group.
Sanford pointed out that High Point, unlike Greensboro, has been pretty stable over the years with its development groups and their names. In that city there is the High Point Chamber of Commerce, the High Point Economic Development Corp. and High Point Partners, a group formed by a collective of local business leaders.