April Bragg, president-CEO of Robins Regional Chamber, talks about her group’s Eggs & Issues Breakfasts.
Residence: Warner Robins
Occupation: President-CEO, Robins Regional Chamber
Q: What’s the idea behind the Robins Regional Chamber’s Eggs & Issues Breakfasts?
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A: It’s a long-standing program many chambers of commerce, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, have to bring people together from the community, business world, industry and government to focus on issues that impact us all. The state and many other chambers do it annually but several years ago we started taking a more serious approach to dig deeper and started having a number of Eggs & Issues Breakfasts every year.
Q: Your first this year was in early March — who was featured and what was a highlight?
A: Since we’re a chamber with a regional reach, we focused first on Houston County and featured Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker. I think the biggest highlight to me was looking at the record growth — sustainable growth — in the county in 2017. That included mentioning 900 new homes built in the county alone plus new and future fire stations being built and new and recently completed road projects.
Q: What else?
A: I appreciated hearing from representatives of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office who shared about their priorities and the good collaboration between them and other law enforcement and emergency agencies in the area with the overarching goal of keeping us all safe. With crime in the news in a big way as the year started it was a good perspective to hear.
Q: You say there are several such breakfasts a year, how often are they?
A: We have six through the year. Our focus tends to go to things like Houston County, as I said, and to Warner Robins, to our legislators and what happened during the year’s legislative session as well as what to look forward to, to Houston Healthcare and to the city of Centerville. There’s a schedule of dates and topics on our website at www.robinsregion.com and you can register for the breakfasts there. Look under events. The next is April 5 and Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms will be there.
Q: Who can attend?
A: They’re open to the public. Cost is $15 for our members and $25 for nonmembers.
Q: Are they well attended?
A: Oh yes, and growing. Where we had around 75 on average several years ago now there’s 120 to 150 coming.
Q: How do these breakfasts fit with Robins Regional’s goals—and how do you see they benefit long-term?
A: They help fulfill our mission to promote the business interests of our members through advocacy, building partnerships and through education and they help us focus the public on priorities, directions of area leaders and groups are taking and the forward motion of the community we all live and work in.
Q: And long term?
A: I think the value is it keeps an open dialogue between leaders and our members and the public in an informal setting with the opportunity to hear directly about priorities and about concerns. We see what’s going on and how the business community can be involved. The fact that it’s ongoing and in the format it’s in puts us in position to know we’re keeping in close touch and clearly and directly hearing what’s going on around us.
Q: You mention the format itself — how does that help?
A: Personally, I think one of the most important things we’ve done to make the breakfasts useful and interesting is that in 2015 we switched the format from being speaker-behind-the-podium driven and PowerPoint-heavy where facts are just thrown at people to a more informal format, more of a fireside chat where I basically interview, ask questions and talk with leaders about what’s on the mind. It’s based on what our members and the public is wanting to know. Some of the same information may come for the old way but this is livelier and more interesting. I don’t see people nodding off or on their phones! It’s more engaging and featured guests are more candid and enjoy it more as well. It was after we changed the format that our attendance starting shooting up, too, so I guess that says something.
Q: Who came up with the idea? Was it local or something you saw elsewhere?
A: It was our idea. We want to do things that work and this seems to be working well. It’s more work for us to gather good questions but it works well. There’s also a time at the end for open questions and answers from the audience. I love it all because it keeps the content living, fresh and about what’s crucial right now, not just canned information, as valuable as that information might be.
Q: One last thing, do you really eat eggs there?
A: We really have eggs and we serve them in different ways durng the year. But personally I have to admit, no, I don’t really like eggs. Other than that, I love every minute of our Eggs & Issues Breakfasts.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.