Chamber: 2012 big year, ‘13 could be even better

SHERIDAN — The board of directors and executive director of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce told representatives of member businesses Tuesday that the organization expanded its reach considerably in 2012.

Speaking at the Chamber’s annual report at The Black Tooth Brewing Company, Executive Director Dixie Johnson highlighted several of the group’s 2012 accomplishments, including:
• Launching a new website in March

• Hosting several days of candidate and legislative forums

• A “Think Local” campaign which resulted in a 35 percent increase in the sales of Chamber Bucks
• Featured member articles in the Chamber’s weekly newsletter
• A Chamber awards ceremony

• The 19th incarnation of the Leadership Sheridan County program

• The continuation of the Chamber Coffee program

• Several Chamber training programs

• Collaborations with other local organizations.

Johnson said those initiatives were instrumental in the Chamber’s mission to become the primary resource for businesses in Sheridan County.

She went on to tout the Fifth Street Information Center’s tally of nearly 104,000 visitors who passed through its doors during regular business hours in 2012. That figure is the highest the Chamber has recorded since 2007.

“Those are referrals to you,” she told representatives of the Chamber’s member businesses.

Also in 2012, the Chamber averaged an attendance of 97 guests at its monthly luncheon while adding 75 new businesses to its ranks. Additionally, more than 800 people attended its first annual Brewfest fundraiser in the fall.

Looking ahead to 2013, Johnson said she plans to grow the organization’s ranks even further while continuing to encourage the community at large to shop local whenever possible.

As part of its Think Local campaign, the Chamber issues certificates known as Chamber Bucks that can be used like cash in any of its hundreds of member businesses. The goal of the program is to keep money in the community by encouraging buyers to patronize local companies.

The program saw significant growth in 2012 with sales increasing by more than $13,000 from 2011 to a total of $46,796. The 2013 goal: $50,000.

Other goals for the year include an emphasis on member retention and development, workforce development training and economic development throughout the county.

Both Johnson and Chamber President Ken Thorpe said strides by the organization in 2012 were made possible largely by a willingness on the part of member businesses to get involved with the Chamber and support its strategic goals.

“We look forward to working hard this year to make sure our efforts result directly in benefits to you — our members,” Johnson said.

The Chamber maintains an operating budget of about $358,000, with most of its funds coming from member dues. One-cent optional sales tax funds make up about 7 percent of its budget.
This year’s incarnation of the Chamber Brewfest is set to take place Sept. 7.

About

Paolo Cisneros

Paolo Cisneros joined The Sheridan Press staff in August 2012. He covers business, energy and public safety. A Chicago native, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.

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