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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Political Business Group Suffering Identity Crisis?

Over the past two months, the Janesville Gazette has ramped up the usual series of articles written in favor of and in seeming cooperation with the politically active private economic development business group known around these parts as Forward Janesville. For several years preceding this latest new chapter in publicity, the group seemed to be receding away from the traditional “chamber of commerce” label and more towards the “economic development” description when referred to in newsprint articles and ads. But lately now, they seem to be returning to the “chamber of commerce” description for some reason.

This rather unimportant about-face in the way they want the public to perceive them may have started in September with a posting of mine titled, Time for a downtown Chamber of Commerce, where I felt the city of Janesville and particularly its downtown businesses have been neglected by the group enough to suggest area businesses create a separate and new non-partisan business-driven Janesville Chamber of Commerce.

Although Forward Janesville considers itself the front door to downtown Janesville, most downtown business owners are struggling entrepreneurs and small business enterprise left to shift for themselves. While the downtown struggles to find ways to raise capital for image and publicity improvements, Forward Janesville captures a $450,000 federal grant for image and publicity improvements. When “real” chambers of commerce from the surrounding Rock County area join together to form a health insurance cooperative, Forward Janesville co-opts out. Yet when election time rolls around for seats on the local school board, county board or city council, the business group gets a free pass from published scrutiny on their organized influence and involvement in the non-partisan process.

Of course not everyone sees things that way. But the Janesville Gazette is probably the most important piece to the pie doing all the cream puff publicity work as a willing enabler for the business group. Who could forget the front page schmooze story on Oct. 31st titled, “What is Forward Janesville?” Or a forgettable commercial ad masquerading as a news article on Page 2A on Nov.11th titled “Campaign training to precede election.” When possible and if the means are available, the newspaper makes an effort to connect the politically active private economic development business group in everything it can. Even if it's just to drop their name. Coincidence?

So this is the bottom line on their latest publicity drive. The politically active private economic development business known as Forward Janesville wants us to know they are also the official Janesville "chamber of commerce"……I think. So don’t get any funny ideas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Your perspective exposes a problem many might not consider. That Janesville businesses might not be able to join the larger regional health co-op and are left with no choice but Forward Janesville's group membership plan.

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