Clearing up angst about chamber

Editor:

The purpose of this letter is to address both verbalized and implied concerns about your Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce. It has been a while since we have communicated with the community and feel it would be beneficial to clarify the state of this organization.

First of all, the Chamber of Commerce mission is, and will continue to be “To ensure Sweet Home’s prosperity and high quality of life through a healthy community and a strong business economy.” We believe it to be imperative that we remain focused on sustaining a vital business district.

The Board of Directors acknowledges that the chamber has had financial and organizational concerns over the last couple of years. We recognize that our operations could have been run more efficiently. We also take full responsibility and have learned from them. At this time the Board is making changes to move forward with positive changes in place.

Financially, we have experienced some insufficiencies because the chamber did not have appropriate guidelines or procedures set down on paper. This resulted in people trying to do what they felt was the right thing, but in reality it was simply a setback.

We are grateful to the loyal members and the City of Sweet Home for relieving some of the financial stress by providing the necessary financial support to forge forward.

Organizationally, we have implemented a fully comprehensive policy and procedures manual that contains an entire section dedicated to finance and debt resolution. Procedurally, we have established hard and fast rules for when and how the Chamber distributes funds. All financial decisions will be approved by the Board of Directors. The newly established Finance Committee will maintain a budget, pay bills, segregate funds for events, etc. We feel that by being good stewards of the tax funds and membership funds, we will be able to model fiscal responsibility to our members.

The board’s event philosophy is “All events MUST be cost-neutral.” This means that event coordination will be planned and executed by an Events Committee. While this was initially not a very popular decision, the “outsourcing” of the Christmas Parade to an Events Committee had outstandingly positive results. People who cared stepped in to fill the gap.

In support of the mission statement, the board believes that part of a healthy community is allowing others the opportunity to help. This pertains to other activites as well; members are encouraged to support and volunteer at the chamber in any area they are passionate about.

At this time, we are current on all financial obligations and on our way to paying off some lingering debt. Although this has taken a year or more to accomplish, the hard choices have realized the desired results.

The Board of Directors realizes that we need to approach tourism in a different way; focusing on the resources and recreational assets of the region will inform visitors what the area has to offer. The chamber has begun collaborating with the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort (SHARE), Linn County Parks and the Forest Service to facilitate and promote tourism and events that capitalize on our natural, cultural and recreational resources by increasing business opportunities in a way that enhances the local economy and ensures exciting visitor experiences.

This year we will identify membership hurdles and concentrate on overall growth. The chamber should be a tool for members to help grow their business.

Benefits for members include:

n Business seminars;

n Social media advertising – website, Facebook, etc…;

n Advertising in our Visitors Guide; Business After Hours events – networking with fellow members/local businesses;

n Funding/design aid for Commercial Exterior Improvement Program grants;

n Community events (parades, tree lighting, etc…);

n Chamber Ambassadors support services;

n Opportunities to strengthen Sweet Home’s business community;

n Tables to use for your events, free of charge;

n Quarterly luncheons designed to give you educational materials to boost business; and

n Advertising on Flyers.

Our goal is 150 chamber members for 2012; we are halfway there.

As members, you share in the responsibility. All chamber meetings and events are open to the public; we encourage everyone with a desire to help (business or individual) to visit. Board meetings are held at 9 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the chamber building. Encourage friends, family and business owners to show up or join if they have not.

The Board of Directors continues to work diligently to be the kind of chamber you want us to be. The only way we can do that is for you to share your thoughts. Each director is willing to hear your input, listen to your feedback and possibly implement your ideas. Over the next few months we are committed to trying new things; some will work, some will not.

A growing thriving membership creates a stronger, healthier economic core. We encourage you to show up, be involved, have a voice and contribute. Your skill set and area of passion is a vital tool necessary to your Chamber of Commerce. Call us today at (541) 367-6186.

Board of Directors

Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce

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