NC chamber official offers guidance to Minority Business Council

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

SALISBURY — Debra Derr has been all over the place. Currently the Director of Government Affairs at the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Derr has a background in media and public relations which proves vital for her job.

Derr spoke to the Rowan Chamber Minority Business Council on Tuesday morning through Zoom to discuss business advocacy from the Chamber’s and a business owner’s perspective.

Derr points out that business advocacy is “the process of working to influence public policy in a way that benefits you as business leaders.” By engaging with the public, business executives and politicians, the Chamber is able to navigate what needs to be done and what the best policies are for all involved parties.

“That makes us accountable. We’re constantly going back, checking ourselves, wanting to make sure that what we are doing, what we’re seeing, what we are promoting, we can stand behind 100 percent,” Derr said.

Some of the challenges business owners face stay the same as time passes, while new ones begin to take shape. Competition, a lack of employees, and taxes are constant obstacles business owners need to stay on top of, but other ones are becoming more advanced.

“You have competition around the world with this global economy. Technology is making huge changes especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. That is a huge issue that’s not only on the horizon, it is with us today. How is this going to impact what you are doing today?” Derr said.

The term infrastructure can have a broad definition. That can mean both the natural resources and the social programs available to a community. The quality of and accessibility to the kind of infrastructure people come to expect can be affected by irresponsible economic growth and the changing marketplace.

“Every time I hear that another company is coming to North Carolina, I have a love/hate relationship with that. Yay, they’re coming! Oh my gosh, now what do we do? What do we do with childcare, housing, education, infrastructure?” Derr said.

Derr’s idea for a solution was a call to action to those sitting in on the meeting. She praised them for already being a part of the council and wanting to learn more, but it takes consistent participation in the entire process. Knowing who their political representatives are, staying informed, volunteering, and fostering better business practices can lead to more economic stability for everyone.

Derr used a quote for the council to think about: “‘If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.'” By being present, she said business owners can go on to “help develop the menu” themselves.