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Rocklin’s competetive edge – it’s the residents

By: Dave Butler, Chairman of the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce
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In the Chamber of Commerce and economic development business, we talk a lot about the qualities and characteristics of communities that provide a city or region with a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive economic marketplace. Very often, a community’s competitive edge is derived from its physical infrastructure or location, like San Francisco, located in a natural seaport which gives it access to foreign markets throughout the Pacific Rim. A community’s competitive edge can also be defined by the development and presence of a specific industry or industry cluster, like the entertainment industry in Los Angeles or information technology in the Silicon Valley. After participating in two significant events this year in Rocklin, the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce’s Business Walk and the State CIF Division II Football Championships in Carson (yes, football!) I am convinced that Rocklin’s competitive edge is its residents … us! ... the people who live here. And it’s not just demographics, like household income. True, Rocklin’s median household income of $84,011 is higher than that of the rest of Placer County ($69,070), the greater Sacramento region ($59,695) and California as a whole ($58,000). However, the quality, character and loyalty of Rocklin residents is perhaps our greatest competitive strength. In July, 70 chamber volunteers and city employees visited more than 240 local businesses and asked them what they liked best about doing business in Rocklin. Overwhelmingly, the answer we received was that local business owners and managers most appreciated the close-knit community and small-town feel we enjoy here and the loyalty and friendliness of their customers. In late December, I was one of more than 3,000 parents, students and fans who traveled nearly 400 miles to cheer the Rocklin High School football team in the state CIF Championships against perennial powerhouse, Servite, at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Three things became clear over the course of the game: the character and courage of the Rocklin players; the commitment and class shown by the Rocklin fans; and what a unique and rare accomplishment it was for a public high school football team from Northern California, comprised of neighborhood kids, competing head to head in a state championship game against a prestigious private school and Division I pipeline like Servite of Anaheim. After falling behind 14-0 following an interception that set up a short touchdown drive and a punt returned for a touchdown, Rocklin’s players, coaches and fans were stunned but did not quit. Faced with a daunting, intimidating and loud wall of Servite fans, Rocklin fans stood and cheered as the players took the field for the next offensive series, which resulted in a Rocklin touchdown and a renewed sense of confidence. Trailing 30-10 halfway through the third quarter, the Rocklin defense held and, led by the team’s senior leaders Tiger Sorensen, Holden Huff and Jackson Cummings, led the Thunder back to tie the score 30-30 with about six minutes to play, showing the same determination they had all season. While the Thunder ultimately lost by a last second field goal, it was clear for all of California to see that Rocklin can compete with the state’s best… and not just on the football field but in the classroom and in the community. For example, during the broadcast, Rocklin’s star tailback, Jackson Cummings, was profiled not only for his exploits in football and basketball, but also for his success in the classroom, demonstrated by his 4.5 GPA and his dedication to his fellow students, serving as a source of strength for fellow students after two recent deaths. Any basic business management course will tell you that the key to success for any organization can be found in the quality and dedication of its people. Clearly, 2009 has demonstrated that Rocklin’s current and future success is a result of and is linked to our city’s greatest asset – us … Rocklin’s residents. In 2010, the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce intends to work more closely with the city, our schools and community groups to identify opportunities to work collaboratively together on issues of common concern … leveraging our “competitive edge” to benefit business, the city and our community. Dave Butler is CEO of LEED and the 2010 Government Relations Chair/Incoming Chairman of the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce.