New Year Chapter One

I do love this time of year. Sure, it’s easier to say that as a Tucsonan since we really don’t have to deal with winter weather, but it’s also nice to reflect on the year we just experienced and get excited about the new year to come.

I recently wrote that resiliency should be the word of the decade. The 2020s did not start off like we all hoped, but a vast majority of our members showed resiliency by restructuring, developing new products and services and finding more effective and efficient ways to conduct business.

Not too long ago, we hosted a series called Pause, Pivot and Prosper. We reached out to our members to uncover the ways in which they changed their mindset in response to the shift brought about by the pandemic. Those lessons we learned certainly still ring true today.

Mitch Pisik, who is one of our Board Members, said that this is a golden time to be as generous and as communicative as you can to your loyal customers, especially if they are hurting. He also stressed that keeping your talented employees is key to surviving any crisis. To that point, he wisely stated that those people who have helped the company succeed will be hard to replace.

Kerry Stratford at Caliber informed us there has been a significant shift in expectations as consumers engage with brands. Here are six consumer trends that have emerged or gained serious traction during the COVID-19 crisis.

1. Mindful Consumption: Americans are spending more on essentials like groceries and home improvement items, as well as on products like bicycles and camping equipment.

2. Homebound Economy: Consumers continue to have a wide range of comfort levels regarding venturing out and returning to pre-pandemic behaviors.

3. Be Well & Healthy: Consumers are focused on healthy and safe living realizing that many people are in crisis and need support.

4. Family First: Americans are spending more time dining, playing board games and watching TV together.

5. The Local Lens: The “buy local” movement has become much more mainstream promoting heightened interest in knowing the source of a brand’s goods and services.

6. Diversity & Inclusiveness: Brands take a fresh look at their diversity programs and seek guidance from a broader brush of people for guidance on how to become more welcoming and

inclusive.

This year marked a big year of pivoting and resiliency for the Chamber as we unveiled our Workforce Blueprint, adopted a 3-Year Strategic Plan and hosted Mayor Romero’s first in-person State of the City address in partnership with Visit Tucson. 

The five recommendations in our workforce blueprint point to the need for employers to engage with education. A project we are excited about is our new partnership with the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Sunnyside Unified School District. Our goal is to engage employers in the district to highlight opportunities right down the road from the school.

Our 3-Year Strategic Plan sets our sights and our focus on issues important to our members. Top of the list is advocacy and we have already started conversations with the newly appointed Chief of Police Chad Kasmar to address the increase in retail thefts and property damage. Public safety has and will always be a business issue and we continue to advocate for increases in commissioned officers. 

We also know that next year brings more in-depth conversations about RTA reauthorization and a potential ballot measure to maintain the City’s sales tax to support transportation infrastructure. These are pivotal issues for our members to be heavily involved in.

Mayor Romero spoke in her State of the City address for the need to make stronger connections with our counterparts in Mexico. We look forward to collaborating with her to increase commerce and business to our region.

Predicting what will happen next year is difficult, let alone dangerous. Last year at this time many said 2021 would bring the end to the worries of the pandemic since vaccines were entering the marketplace yet concerns still linger. 

If history has taught us anything, it is that with crisis comes resiliency. Business leaders look forward, not backward. With forward progress comes solutions to our challenges and innovative ideas that fulfill our needs. I am optimistic that we will use the lessons learned to make a number of improvements and while the economy in 2022 will not be the “hockey stick” growth we want to see, it will continue to climb. Now let’s get back to enjoying our “winter” weather.

Michael Guymon is interim president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber.