Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business
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By: Matt Guthrie 

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CoLAB strong picThere is much enjoyment during the Holidays, not the least of which is the relatively guiltless excess that accompanies parties, family meals, leftovers and feet up on the coffee table while the seemingly endless string of sporting events light up the TV. We seem to have an unspoken agreement that this is acceptable in December and a little less acceptable in January.

There’s a reason that gyms, sporting goods stores and health food companies love the coming of the New Year.  A new year inspires new commitment and provides an opportunity to set and achieve new goals while pondering how we can improve upon last year. New year – new you, right? Like the rest of us, VC CoLAB is setting goals and is committed to be the best it can be in 2016. The Board of Directors and staff enter this year with renewed focus, determined to provide exceptional value for our members and achieve record growth.

I joined VC CoLAB as Director of Development in January of last year. Prior to that, our Executive Director, Lynn Jensen, and Research Analyst, Lauren Swift held down the CoLAB fort with the help of an active and committed Board of Directors; not an easy task considering the breadth of projects and issues the organization is committed to tackling.  Thanks to the generous contributions and continuing commitment of our current members and a steadily growing number of new members, VC CoLAB has expanded staff to more effectively advocate on your behalf.  This, ultimately, gives your membership greater value and our business advocacy cause greater traction.

Starting off the New Year, we are announcing some staff changes that are bittersweet. First, we extend best wishes to Lauren as she moves to Austin, Texas to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. We appreciate her dedication to CoLAB and are excited for her new opportunities.  We are also very fortunate to welcome our new Marketing Director, Rachel Culbert-Mastro, who started with us on January 4th. Rachel has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and five years experience in campaign management including state and local races. As part of the VC Colab team, Rachel will provide marketing, fundraising, administrative, accounting, and membership support in addition to lending her experience to our issue campaigns.

In 2015, VC CoLAB saw a 22% growth in membership and a 26% growth in annual revenue.  Membership expansion into new industries has also increased diversity and relevance in new areas of advocacy.  A monthly WHEEL (Water, Housing, Energy, Environment, Land Use) policy committee and a quarterly Circle the Wagons Education Series Luncheon were added over the past year, as well as increased focus and collaboration with other business advocacy groups, policy makers and partners in seeking sensible regulatory solutions.

Over the past five years, VC CoLAB has built a reputation for getting in the trenches and getting things done.  Building upon the momentum of 2015, the organization is poised to become an even greater influence in local regulatory reform and public policy matters.  With a strong commitment from our members, we will achieve this goal through our highly motivated staff, diligent research, and legal and technical expertise.

A growing and engaged membership base makes VC CoLAB more influential.  This ultimately attracts a larger audience of potential members.  This is where your help is critical.  We all see the value in more effective advocacy to support our local economy and industries.  So how do we tap into the thousands of others who support our goals?

If you’re currently a member, consider increasing your annual dues.  As an advocacy organization created to promote a business-friendly regulatory environment and promote an expanding economic base in Ventura County, a VC CoLAB membership is a bargain.  At $100 annually, an individual membership is less than $9.00 a month.  Many of our larger contributors were once individual members who recognized the efforts and value of what VC CoLAB does and committed to continue their annual support at a higher level.  This has been a critical component of our ability to add resources.  Everyone, from our $100 individual members to our $5,000 Benefactor members plays an important role in VC CoLAB’s success.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is simply “tell a friend”.  Most of us interact with like-minded people with shared concerns about a fair regulatory environment and the long-term success and prosperity of Ventura County.  Because so many of our members can clearly see the value VC CoLAB provides, they remain a continual source of new member referrals.  Having a seat at the table has never been so important.  There’s strength in numbers and you can play a critical role in helping to expand our membership.

VC CoLAB resolves to build upon past success and break new ground in 2016.  It’s clear there will be no shortage of critically important issues to tackle over the next twelve months.  As always, we will be there to advocate for fairness in the regulatory process and encourage sensible policies that promote economic prosperity in Ventura County.  We look forward to having you and others join us in that fight as we grow our membership and influence.


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