In 2003, as Salt Lake Chamber leadership searched for a new president, they identified several weaknesses of the organization the new leader would need to address. Near the top of the list was the Chamber’s lagging clout on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
For more than a century, the Chamber led some of Utah’s most significant initiatives to build roads, protect businesses, moderate taxes, create national parks, and develop new industry. Throughout most of the Chamber’s history, lawmakers usually listened when the Chamber came calling; but by the end of the 1990s, legislators were no longer listening.
The Chamber took a dramatic turn for the better when key leaders convinced former Utah Senate President Lane Beattie to move into the corner office. Beattie knew Utah’s legislative and executive players intimately and had immediate credibility with them. With Beattie
at the helm, the Chamber reasserted itself in the public policy arena. Indeed, the Chamber being Utah’s “voice of business” once again became a truism.
In choosing Beattie, the Chamber’s Board of Governors set a new course for the organization, one that would make it more policy-driven than in the past. “We thought the Chamber should be more of a voice for the business interests in the state,” said Scott Anderson, then chair of the Chamber’s board. “The members wanted a strong government relations effort — that was number one — and they wanted to be a force in economic development. The Chamber needed to become more involved. It had lost that emphasis, and the board was willing to pay to regain it. They wanted us to be lobbying,” he said.
Over 14 years, the Chamber embraced a new era of business leadership. One that blended the best of traditional chamber functions: networking, marketing and events; with top-notch business advocacy and coalition building, to better serve the business community and citizens of our state.
“A chamber of commerce can take many forms. Ours is one of business leadership, dedicated involvement in the affairs of the community and a top- notch professional staff,” said Beattie. “Utah needed a unified voice from the business community and I wanted to promote a sweeping vision of what a statewide chamber of commerce can and should be.”
As Beattie’s vision began to take hold, he sought to elevate existing talent and recruit some of the state’s brightest policy staff. Their collective charge was to bring the business community together to promote an exceptional statewide business climate through a mixture of collaboration, advocacy and service.
This team became the foundation for what is today, Utah’s premiere business organization. For years, the Chamber had only one government affairs director. In 2003, the Chamber had a three-person policy team. By 2017, the Chamber had the equivalent of six full-time policy team members, a partnership with the state’s premier think tank and unquestionable influence on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
“The Chamber’s success is a reflection of an invigorated and organized business community, united and ready to work with our elected officials, who are supported by some of the most talented individuals in the state,” said Beattie. “The Chamber will continue to provide leadership on the issues facing our state, ultimately serving the business community and Utah’s citizens.”
Thanks to Beattie, the Chamber and its partners’ work to secure good business policy. Utah is one of the best states to start, expand or simply do business.