San Jose’s largest business organization got a facelift with a new CEO in the spring. Now it’s changing its name too.
The Silicon Valley Organization, a business chamber that represents more than 1,000 companies in the city, will now be called the San Jose Chamber of Commerce—bringing the city’s name back into the organization for the first time after a four-year hiatus.
“I think the name change is reflective of where we’re headed as an organization,” Derrick Seaver, president and CEO, told San José Spotlight. “The board in June took a lot of actions on a road forward. While the name change is the most public and visible one of those changes, what they did is lean into being more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses.”
The chamber was founded in 1886 as the Santa Clara Valley Board of Trade. With Thursday’s announcement, the chamber has changed names eight times since then, including rebranding in 2017 to become the Silicon Valley Organization to appeal more broadly to businesses and lawmakers across the valley. Though the organization won’t have “Silicon Valley” in its name, Seaver is confident the new name won’t alienate members who have ties outside the city.
Seaver openly mulled a name change on an April episode of the Podlight while discussing the organization’s new direction.
“I think the name change is a great idea,” said Eddie Truong, a former director of government and community relations with the SVO. “I believe the greater community understands what a chamber organization does. The most important thing for the chamber of commerce is to double down on its core focus: jobs, jobs, jobs along with small business recovery, business advocacy and economic development. The refreshed identity and renewed mission is a positive thing and would benefit our entire community.”
The embattled business group has fought through a year wrought with criticism. The SVO spent six months searching for a new CEO after Matt Mahood resigned in October after it posted a racist campaign ad against a political rival. In an effort to fix its image, the group cobbled together a diversity panel last year, though it struggled to get recruits.
The organization saw immediate fallout from the racist image. It dissolved its PAC and pledged to stop endorsing political candidates. Businesses and nonprofits cut ties with the organization and its membership dropped. The SVO also darkened the face of San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas in another racist ad—and blamed a consultant for it, but continued to work with that consultant last year.
The chamber’s hiring of Seaver, though criticized as a snub for more diversity in the organization, was meant to represent a new direction for the group.
In the past, the SVO endorsed pro-business candidates and historically opposed pro-labor supporters. One such candidate, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, praised the organization for returning to its roots.
“Returning San Jose to the name of our city’s resurgent business organization reaffirms their commitment to promoting job creation and prosperity throughout our community,” Liccardo said in a statement. “This renewed focus of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce will help our small businesses recover together.”
Seaver said the name change is part of a larger movement.
“We are the nation’s 10th largest city, we’re a growing city,” he said. “We believe that a city like San Jose should have its own chamber of commerce and it should have one named that way. If San Jose isn’t recognized now, it’s getting to a place where it’s going to be. We want to be a part of that.”