SHERIDAN — This year’s annual report from the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce highlighted the progress and growth of the organization in the past year. Chamber CEO Dixie Johnson was the main speaker at the group’s monthly luncheon Wednesday, and she highlighted how she and her team worked to support and enhance local businesses.
Johnson said the Chamber closed out 2013 with a record 605 members.
“Something we’re really pleased to share and really proud of is the fact that our retention rate in 2012 was 90 percent, and in 2013, we grew that retention to 95 percent. We’re really excited about that,” Johnson said.
Of those members, about two-thirds are businesses with five or fewer employees. The rest of the Chamber’s membership consists of large businesses, local government entities, schools, nonprofit groups and individual members. Johnson said membership investment accounted for 43 percent of the Chamber’s total operating budget of approximately $398,000. Programs and contracts comprised another 20 percent, government funding via the city’s and county’s Optional One-Cent Sales Tax raked in 7 percent and events and committees accounted for 29 percent. The website maintained by the Chamber garnered 24,000 unique visitors in 2013 and a total of 33,617 page views. The average Web surfer spent three minutes per visit to the site and viewed three pages. The most popular sections of the Chamber’s online presence were job postings, the community calendar and the member directory.
The Chamber of Commerce also released 52 online newsletters in 2013 that saw a 14 percent increase in readership. In addition there were 104 Member-to-Member publications, 17 Member Opportunity e-blasts and seven Member Alerts issued electronically.
Johnson said Chamber administrators employed a new software system last year, and she said she expects further technical improvements to develop as she and her staff become more familiar with the program.
Aside from its online presence, the Chamber of Commerce served as a physical front door to the community, greeting more than 100,000 visitors at the visitor’s center during regular business hours. The Chamber also issued an average of two relocation packets per week and complied convention materials to enable visitors to get an idea of local businesses and services.
Johnson also highlighted major projects for the group for the past year, which included Brewfest, a fundraiser featuring unlimited sampling of more than a dozen regional breweries. 2013 was the second year the for the event, and it attracted 50 percent more patrons that its inaugural year.
In addition to its main fundraiser, the Chamber hosted coffee meetings, luncheons and training seminars.
This year, the Chamber graduated its 20th Leadership Sheridan County Class, making for a total of 275 alumni of the program to date.
Committee participation for the Chamber includes the Critical Air Service Task Force, the Economic Development Task Force and the Think Local First Campaign.
Johnson credited the Chamber’s “Think Local” efforts to resulting in a 27 percent increase in Chamber Bucks sold in 2013. $59,287 were issued in the past year in the form of the gift certificate redeemable at member businesses.
Johnson emphasized the goal in all the Chamber’s activities is to promote local businesses via promoting substantiability, business and economic development, gaining and retaining members and providing workforce development and training opportunities for its members.
“It’s also important that we as a chamber keep working and deliver valuable benefits to our membership in 2014.,” Johnson said. “The board of directors is continuing to work strategically toward our objectives.”
Johnson concluded her address by thanking the community for its support and unveiling a new “Think Local First” banner.
The Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013. The start of the organization dates as far back as 1895, when the group was called the Sheridan Commercial Club. When the Chamber of Commerce first incorporated in 1913, it had 85 members.