Editorial: Adrift, Sac Metro Chamber wanes as a regional force

To build its future, Sacramento needs an effective, respected and regionally minded chamber of commerce. Sadly, in recent years, the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has been drifting. Too often its leadership has picked needless fights with potential partners, missing opportunities to collaborate on behalf of a stronger business climate.

The Metro Chamber’s problems have stacked up since 2012:

The issue isn’t just Niello, whom the Metro Chamber hired in late 2011. It’s a board and a staff that too often are unnecessarily antagonistic.

The decision to spend $15,000 in county money to bring pro-sprawl advocate Joel Kotkin to town – with Metro Chamber Chair Martha Lofgren later defending the decision – is a symptom of a problem that goes beyond Niello and the team he has created.

The chamber can claim some successes in recent years. It has worked to identify and elevate young business leaders in the region. It has pressed the Sacramento City Council to make its codes and ordinances less burdensome to local businesses.

Yet since Mahood left, the chamber has named three CEOs, and none of them were chosen to provide lasting leadership. Niello is expected to step down in the next year. He’s had a distinguished career as a state assemblyman and Sacramento County supervisor, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.

The choice of his successor, however, will say much on whether the Metro Chamber board wants to repeat recent mistakes or choose a leader who is more collaborative and bipartisan.

Many of this nation’s most vibrant metropolitan regions have highly effective chambers of commerce, building alliances with arts, science and cultural groups, and getting help from those groups in pursuit of business-friendly policies. Denver is one such region. Sacramento deserves the same opportunity to thrive.

With a smart decision on its next CEO, the chamber can again become the respected regional player it needs to be.