You’ve likely seen the press and social media attention this month announcing this year’s 35th Leadership Denton class. This is a group of individuals who are highly motivated, educated, civic-minded, and deeply passionate about engaging with this community at a new level. Collectively, they will provoke and initiate lasting change in Denton.

Historically, Leadership Denton classes have each taken responsibility for a class project. This project usually addresses a community issue or a chamber issue and examines creative solutions, provides an action plan, or even a completed product. For example:

  • LD2015: Transportation Study
  • LD2012: Downtown Welcome Center
  • LD2018: Next Generation: The Chamber of the Future
  • LD2016: Denton Technology Council
  • LD2007: Code Enforcement
  • LD1988: Beautification of entrances to the City
  • LD2009: Fire Safety Town proposal
  • LD2013: Airport Marketing Plan

This year’s class project came from a question I posed to business owners, on social media, when I stepped into leadership at your chamber back in April: What keeps you up at night?

Surprisingly, one sentiment echoed across the board. Many business owners responded that hiring quality staff and employee retention is their greatest challenge. Keeping employees engaged, committed to a standard of excellence, and dedicated to client and customer experience has proven to be increasingly difficult in all industries.

We know that Denton is unique in its makeup, talent pool and economy. Every community is. And every community that decides to proactively address workforce issues will have a competitive advantage over those who do nothing.

The question is: What can be done to bridge the gap and provide peace of mind to business owners while also recognizing the need to retain existing talent in the community? What solutions target existing businesses, as well as anticipate future Denton businesses and employee needs?

The 35th class of Leadership Denton will design and present recommendations for the Denton business community that can lead to solutions for said questions. Some considerations:

  • What does our current available workforce look like?
  • What are our existing businesses’ gaps in the workforce they seek? Additionally, what do industries targeted by the city of Denton’s Economic Development Plan need?
  • What does Denton have that is working well to draw and retain needed workforce?
  • How can businesses and the city do more to retain sought-after talent?
  • Of the recommendations made, how would they positively impact our economy?
  • What industries would most benefit from our solutions presented?
  • What kind of impact, if any, would these recommendations have on tourism, e.g. local business impact?

The issue of workforce is one you are going to start hearing over and over. I am excited that the chamber, the city and the community at large are beginning to pool their resources to address it directly.

Being a community that has a prepared workforce will continue to attract industry and attract higher-paying jobs. New industry growth and higher-paying jobs will, in turn, retain the talent that already exists here.

Is that what chambers of commerce are supposed to be doing, you ask? See No. 1 below …

A clear understanding of what Chambers exist to accomplish in their communities is something we consistently strive to communicate. Chamber missions vary, but they all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals:

  1. Building communities that attract residents, visitors and investors (through public and private partnerships — the economic development arm of the chamber plays a large role here).
  2. Promoting those communities (this is most commonly the function of the Convention & Visitors Bureau arm of the chamber).
  3. Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate. (We want to make it easy to do business in our community!)
  4. Representing the unified voice of the employer community to local, state and federal government. (There’s power in numbers.)
  5. Providing accelerated access to resources and relationships. (Networking!)

Most chambers are led by private-sector employers, self-funded, organized around boards/committees of volunteers, and independent. They share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers. Most are ardent proponents of the free market system, resisting attempts to overly burden private sector enterprise and investment. To read more, visit

As always, I welcome your questions and thank you for the role each one of you plays in making Denton the best place to do business in North Texas.

ERICA PANGBURN is president of the Denton Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at 940-382-9693 and

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