BOTKINS — Members of the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce gathered Thursday night to learn of the accomplishments of the local organization.
“Our continuing pursuit at the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber is to help our members achieve a higher level of success,” said Jeff Raible, president and CEO. “As the member profile of the Chamber is diverse, so too are their needs.
“For member companies looking to increase their recognition in the local marketplace and our community, we offer high impact – low cost marketing and visibility enhancement solutions,” said Raible. “For the small to mid-size organizations looking to save money on their everyday operating costs, we offer group buying discounts that leverage the overall size of the Chamber’s membership in a way that qualifies these smaller enterprises for savings opportunities they might not otherwise receive.
“And certainly all organizations both large and small need a well-trained and knowledgeable staff. To assist these members we sponsor employee development programs that enable your team to make better decisions and connect with others in the local business community who are similarly tasked in their organizations,” he said.
A few of the year’s highlights, said Raible, include the four media seminars, which received great reviews, as did the two seminars to help employers prepare for the legalities associated with medical marijuana in the workplace.
“We were able to assist nearly 400 of your employees on a monthly basis stay up to date with best practices in the disciplines of Workplace Safety, Human Resources Management, LEAN Enterprise fundamentals and Food Manufacturing processes,” he said. “Collectively these special interest Councils conducted more than 40 lunch and learn style workshops, an average of three workshops per month.”
The chamber’s YPConnect continues to grow.
“Organized in 2017, YPConnect was established as a way to network young professionals in the Shelby County area and, as importantly, to strengthen their bonds with our local business community,” said Raible.
“Today YPConnect has more than 340 followers. Our continuing challenge is to develop content for its monthly meetings that captures and engages the interest of area young professionals. The YP steering committee under the leadership of Nate Burns is doing a really nice job with growing this group both in terms of membership and relevant content,” he said.
Two new member benefits were rolled out last year. One a billboard advertising discount with Kenjoh Outdoor and the second a small group health insurance savings opportunity with Anthem.
“As for the Chamber Foundation, we believe that better prepared students in the classroom translate to better qualified employment prospects for our member companies. Thanks to your generosity, our Foundation was able to fund 18 education grants and help offset some of the operating costs of the Workforce Partnership,” said Raible.
Raible also looked at future programs and events planned for 2019.
“In the coming year we will continue our popular series of digital marketing workshops in partnership with our friends at Marketing Essentials,” said Raible. “Our first workshop will cover the topic of Personal Branding and is scheduled for late March. In April we’ll present a seminar entitled Sales Enablement, a modern strategy for attaining organizational sales goals.
“In May we will collaborate with the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA to deliver our annual Economic Outlook Luncheon. A big shout out to this year’s presenting sponsor, Merrill Lynch. We’ve been told that this year’s speaker is going to be EPIC so we hope you’ll make plans to attend.
“Today, perhaps more than ever before, the Chamber is collaborating extensively with our colleagues at the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, the City of Sidney, the County Commissioners, and Sidney Alive to undertake a series of initiatives we hope will better position our community as an ideal place to live and do business,” he said.
The initiative, he said is called “placemaking.”
“Wikipedia defines it this way, placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.” said Raible. “Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.
“In short, I like to refer to placemaking as ‘creating a sense of place where people want to live live – a place people want to visit – and a place people want to work,’ all the things with which the Chamber concerns itself in helping to influence the attractiveness and reputation of our community.”
The Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership was first on the scene to launch a formal placemaking initiative in the community, said Raible.
“To date, much time has been invested in gathering information. A number of focus groups were convened in the third and fourth quarters last year to assess where we are,”said Raible.
“We first met with a group of young professionals who shared their wants and desires for the places they call home. In addition, a group of us listened to a presentation by Jason Duff. Jason is a major catalyst in the transformation of downtown Bellefontaine into an entertainment, dining, and loft living destination.
“Thus far we have actively participated in a visioning session attended by a large number of community leaders and young professionals. The purpose of this gathering was to imagine what our community could look like if we are deliberate and focused on improving our sense of place.
“We’ve also met with a number of downtown Sidney building and business stakeholders to better understand the challenges of opening a small business or finding a tenant to occupy space already available,” he said.
The outcomes of these research based conversations has spun off a series of subcommittee activity to explore and address:
• The middle income housing inventory,
• Improved public – private partnership opportunities,
• The development of a community brand, and
• The feasibility of recruiting new retail and hospitality businesses to the area.
In the chamber office, Raible is assisted by Vice President Dawn Eilert, Director of Finance and Administration Cheri Dalton and Office Assistant April Bogart.
The Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership also shares office space with the chamber. Jim Hill is its executive director. Deb McDeermott is the executive director of the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County. Roger Fulk also works with the Workforce Partnership.
The 2019 Board of Directors includes Chairman Phil Gilardi; First Vice Chairman Mary Lee Smock; Second Vice President Margo O’Leary; Secretary/Treasurer Stacy Pettit; and Immediate Past Chair D Jay Baird. Board members are John Campbell, Paul Dentinger, Makayla Goins, Andrea Guckes, Josh Koltak, Nancy Luce, Ryan Nichols, David Richard, Josh Ross and Jeff Schlater.
The 2018 committee and council chairs were Millie Woryk, human resources council’ Max Knasel, safety council; Dave Ross, visitor’s bureau advisory council; and Nate Burns, YPConnect.