Chamber Made Column

Chamber Made Column

Chamber Made Column

May 20, 2017

NEK Chamber Hopes to Continue

To Build On Successes Of Past Year

(The following speech was delivered at the Northeast Kingdom Chamber Annual Meeting, held this past Tuesday at Lyndon State College.)

Good afternoon. My name is Kimberly White, from MSI, and I am very pleased I will be returning as your president in the coming year.

We here at the Northeast Kingdom Chamber love alliteration. Last year, I spoke of the patience, perseverance and persistence that it took our organization to get through the Great Recession and the two past miserable winters that wreaked havoc on our economy.

This year, I will add to the theme and add yet another word that begins with that letter, and that is pride. Pride in what we do at the chamber and also how proud I have felt to be part of this organization for more than a decade.

Last year, at this very meeting, the director of VAST, a former chamber director herself, noted in her presentation that the Northeast Kingdom Chamber is considered one of the most respected and innovative chambers in the state. 

While it is a very nice compliment, indeed, to be considered one of the most respected chambers in the state, our charge as an organization is not to dwell on the accomplishments of the past but to focus on what needs to be done in the future.  It is our priority, our very mission in fact, to improve the economic landscape of our members and the economy of the Northeast Kingdom. The innovation the VAST director spoke of is not only key but imperative.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend about my long association with the chamber and noted the importance of the need to EARN your membership, that we do not want you to join out of loyalty alone. If I may be so bold, there may be a number of you out in the audience today who may not realize ALL that we can do as a chamber to strengthen and promote your business, and we want to change that.

While we greatly appreciate your commitment to our organization, we realize the importance of providing a return on investment for your membership. This goes beyond the significant efforts we put in to improve the community and regional economies of the Northeast Kingdom as your regional chamber.

We want to be the group that strengthens your business, provides discounts on needed services, ensures long-term success for your operation and is your go-to place to find out everything you need to know about finding needed services, starting, expanding, relocating or selling your business and being THE source for business and training events. All signs indicate that we are doing just that, more and more, each day.

So let’s speak of those innovations that we spoke of earlier. In the past few months, we kicked off one of THE BEST chamber web sites in New England, and that is not just a hollow boast.  If I can once again speak of that notion of pride again, the chamber is extremely proud that a member, The Cambium Group, developed and designed our amazing site. It is important for you to know that our chamber does not go outside its membership when we need necessary services for our organization. We walk the walk, talk the talk and promote our members first.

We strongly encourage you, when you leave this meeting, to not only check out your own listing on YOUR chamber web site, nekchamber.com, but also look at other chamber sites throughout New England. You will see that our site looks different and functions differently from all others, with the sole purpose of putting our membership and region at the economic forefront of every other region in Vermont.

What makes our site unique from others is not only its ease and intuitive feel but the many parts that have gone into the site itself.  Our home “page” is really not a page but tells more of a story of the Kingdom, with beautiful photos, hyperlinks to places to visit, featured chamber businesses and quick links to all the most accessed items you need and want on the site – all at your fingertips on the home page.

And let’s talk about our itinerary. There is no other trip planner like ours on a chamber site in the nation. It is designed more like a shopping cart for a retail site than what has been done on travel sites in the past. You can pick out desired lodging, attractions, dining and events, put them on your wish list and then save and share your itinerary with friends and family.

Our Platinum Enhanced Page has been improved as well, with even more design and functional elements added. Our chamber members can include more copy, hyperlinks to their own sites, a video, contact information and more photos. Platinum Page members get Featured Business ad placements on the home page and throughout the informational pages of the site. Platinum members also receive preferred placement on business category pages, bringing more business and visitors to these members’ doors.  

We could spend an hour, but I won’t, describing all the features on the Northeast Kingdom Chamber’s Online Business Resource Guide. We culled and collected information from over a dozen sites, including our own, to provide the most complete business building resource – period – in the state and maybe New England.

This online business resource guide leads you through, from beginning to end, everything you need to do to start, expand, relocate and sell a business and when to do it. It has already been heralded as the best such guide in Vermont.

Why did we take the enormous time that it took to research and write such an extensive site? Because our board, economic development committee and membership told us how important it was to develop such a guide. The ability to speak with ONE LOUD VOICE when trying to attract and retain businesses cannot be underscored, and we hope that town clerks, our fellow chambers, economic development agencies, libraries – you name it – all use this very valuable resource.

We have had successes on the home front as well, with the most money raised last year at our biggest fundraiser, one of the largest attendances ever at our Colors of the Kingdom Autumn Festival and one of the strongest audiences in recent memory at our legislative breakfast series.

The chamber has also reinvigorated and re-energized our Young Professionals Network in the past year, and we hope that you as employers will encourage your employees to become involved with the group. Just contact us at the chamber and we will make it happen. We figure if we address some of the challenges that our younger workers and entrepreneurs face that they will be much more likely to last in our local workforce and add to our growing economy.

Although we have had our share of successes, we have also had a number of curve balls thrown our way in the past year – some at our head, it feels – but that does not stop us from trying to round the bases and score a run for the Kingdom.

We also discovered, to belabor this baseball metaphor even more, that when an crucial player gets dropped out of the lineup for a few weeks, as our director did when her husband got diagnosed and subsequently died of pancreatic cancer in just 12 short days, that our chamber is at its heart a team effort, with Jenn Garand showing clear and appreciated leadership skills during her absence.  We thank her so much for all that she did during this time.

As I bring this presentation full circle and reiterate our promise to focus on the future, we would like to remind you that nothing, whether it is our web site or our chamber itself, is written in stone and that we are constantly making changes and improvements to better serve our membership and region. Please let us know if you have any ideas on how we can help you and the area.

In parting, I would like to thank you again for allowing me the honor of serving as your president.  It has been one of the honors of my career and we hope as a chamber to be able to once again report on even more good news next year.

(Kim White is a native of the Northeast Kingdom, having been born in St. Johnsbury and lived in that community and in Danville. She presently serves as the president of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber, a post she has held since 2016.)

(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber.)

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