On June 17, an unspeakable and hate-filled tragedy occurred in Charleston at our beloved Emanuel AME Church. As a community, we grieved, we prayed, we came together to start our healing and recovery process.

We have been awed and humbled by our collaborative response of unity, grace, kindness and love. And as we still grieve, we recognize the importance of moving forward. We understand the responsibility falls to all of us to continue the good works of S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons Sr. and DePayne Middleton Doctor.

Next week, the state Senate and House of Representatives will debate the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, representing 125,000 employees and more than 1,600 businesses in our region, strongly urges the swift removal of the Confederate flag and placement of it in a museum of historical significance. The flag negatively impacts our collective ability to attract talent as well as our ability to attract capital investment and jobs in our region and South Carolina. The time has come, and it is right to take this step now.

We urge you, as business leaders and citizens of our region, to contact your elected officials this week and next. Ask them to remove the Confederate flag and place it in a museum of historical importance. Visit http://www.charlestonchamber.net/openletter/#ElectedOfficials for a complete list of elected officials and contact information.

Beyond the symbol of the flag, your Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is committed to continuing to work with businesses, residents, non-profits, schools, elected leaders and supportive citizens to sustain this strong momentum of inclusion and respect throughout our Metro. We aim to help create a lasting welcome place for businesses to thrive, talent to grow and our region to prosper.

Our members, volunteer leaders and professional staff are intent on taking this positive energy and power of forgiveness and turning them into something lasting, deep, meaningful and uniquely Charleston. Because we strongly believe, right now and here, this is what it means to lead. We owe no less to the nine lives lost, and to all of us who live and work in our region.

For them. For all of us. For Metro Charleston. Now is the time for this transformation.

Laura G. Varn

Chair of the Board of Directors

Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce

Leeds Avenue

North Charleston

Bryan Derreberry

President and CEO

Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce

Leeds Avenue

North Charleston