By Greg Reibman
Say hello to the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber.
We’re adding the word “regional” to our name because we want this organization to reflect the ways the business world, the challenges we collectively face and your chamber are evolving.
In recent months, we’ve found that nearly a third of our new members are businesses with headquarters outside of Newton or Needham. Those companies and non-profits are choosing to join this chamber because they see phenomenal opportunities in this area — including a consumer base that’s among the most-desired and best-educated in the nation.
Our new members also tell us they see value in chamber membership – including the more than 100 programs and events we produce annually. And they want the ability to connect with a business network that the Boston Business Journal reports is the fastest-growing chamber in Massachusetts.
Most importantly, we’ve added “regional” to our name because we know that in order to rise to the challenges our communities face – from infrastructure, transportation and workforce housing to attracting and retaining the best employers and top talent here – we’re going to need regional solutions and partners.
Historically, Massachusetts cities and towns have not been particularly good at solving problems regionally. But recent collaborations between Newton City Hall and Needham Town Hall demonstrate how working together can lead to funding for roadway projects we might not have seen otherwise. And economic development efforts such as our N2 Innovation Corridor project — a partnership between our two municipalities and the business community — are only feasible when extending across municipal boundaries.
Just this month, a report released by A Better City and the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University spelled out how important this is.
The study begins by reminding us how inadequate Greater Boston’s deteriorating infrastructure is today, and then projects the challenges over the next 15 years in the face of anticipated population and business growth.
If you think traffic on the Mass Pike is bad now, or the Riverside T too crowded now, just wait. Everything from our transportation system, energy grid, water, sewer and recycling capacity need substantive upgrades and rethinking.
And, of course, we must also prepare for the extreme effects of climate change.
“We must find ways to expand our infrastructure, enhance the efficiency with which we use it, and find ways to conserve energy, water, and open space in order to accommodate the population growth and expanded economic output we project through 2030,” the authors wrote. “The complexity lies in determining which course to take and ultimately how to pay for it.”
None of this is anything one mayor, one Board of Selectmen, one chamber or any other organization can address alone. Collectively, we need to identify new partners. That includes working closely with the chambers and municipalities closest to us to make sure our inner suburban communities along I-95, the Charles River, the Green Line and commuter rail have a voice at the table.
But there’s one thing that adding “regional” to our name doesn’t change.
That’s our steadfast commitment to local issues – zoning, regulations, the conditions of our streets, walkability, amenities and public spaces – that are also vital to our member businesses, our non-profits and our residents. Our commitment to being your voice at Newton City Hall and Needham Town Hall — and anywhere else where we can help these two communities — will not change.
The mission of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber is to champion our communities’ economic and cultural vitality through advocacy, education and networking. We’re growing. We’re evolving. We’re here for you.
Greg Reibman is president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org