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Infrastructure

By Jim Mikula, President/CEO


That old iceberg metaphor


Continuing to look at how our entire business community can create even more success; a couple of recent events have reminded me about the very foundation upon which we build businesses: infrastructure. This past week, the City’s Planning & Zoning Committee (P&Z) reviewed a long-pending conference center project and the Chamber also held its annual awards banquet. At first glance, they would have little in common, but the success of both depends on infrastructure.


I harken back to a thinking model that has helped me design business solutions. It can easily be visualized using the well-worn “iceberg” metaphor. What you see above the surface of the ocean are the Results that an organization is after. That big mass underwater in this case consists of two layers: first, Processes and below that Infrastructure. As you might have guessed, Infrastructure is the foundation upon which Processes that get the Results are built.


A common definition of Infrastructure includes electricity, water, sewer, roads, broadband, etc., needed to operate a factory or hotel for example. But more broadly, it includes governance, management and workforce, technology, supply chain reliability, etc. I think you get the picture that defining all the elements of your organization’s infrastructure is important to your success. Just imagine if your business was mislocated on Google Maps and your customers were driving to a wrong location. For most of us, Google Maps is a piece of our infrastructure.


Last week, the P&Z was reconsidering the conference center project that has been in planning for some time. They were not able to approve it at this time because they were concerned about some infrastructure questions. Would the increased traffic and the pattern of traffic cause problems? Would the workforce needed put more pressure on workforce housing in our community? These are vital infrastructure questions.


The Chamber’s banquet had upwards of 450 in attendance. We have a staff of four. It would be impossible to pull off such an event without our key pieces of infrastructure: our volunteers and Board of Directors, the availability of the venue and a competent caterer, corporate sponsors, and the many donors of auction items and our Big Surprises in Small Boxes prizes. This year the set up and tear down of all the banquet tables and chairs went from a multi-hour process to less than 30 minutes because one of our chamber members, CTEC, sent a big crew over to do the job!


An important role for the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce is helping to develop and improve the infrastructure needed for our business community. I think that starts with our entire business community examining our individual and collective foundations. Are we are aspiring to results beyond our reach because the infrastructure doesn’t exist for us to get there? It can happen when a small business struggles to expand without enough credit or technology or workers. It can happen on a larger scale such as an affordable housing crisis.


Here in Fredericksburg, we have the “can do” mentality. Let’s figure out what’s missing in our foundation and get creative about plugging the holes. All ideas should be welcomed – who knows, maybe the best idea will come out of the “mouths of babes.” In any event, it is our collectiveness that will drive our continued success and path to a bright future.

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