Almost three years ago I showed up to my new job as director of marketing and communications at the Chamber of Commerce.
My only experience with the Chamber previously was taking part in Leadership Sheridan County and whatever I happened to read off their website before I interviewed for the job. But I jumped in with both feet excited to learn what this nonprofit organization was about and what they contributed to Sheridan County. Basically, I didn’t know anything and I was quite naïve.
Three years later, I probably don’t know much more, and naivety is still a strong suit, but what I have learned about the Chamber and its role in the community could fill much more than this article. I never fault people when they ask, “So, what does the Chamber do?” because I was there once, too. But let me tell you that while the Chamber seems elusive in its role, this community would not be the same without it. I still find this topic hard to explain in just a few sentences, but one of the best ways I know how to describe the Chamber, and now part of my new elevator speech, is that we are “The Front Door to the Community.”
Daily, we get visitors from other towns wondering where to go, what to do, the best places to eat, and where to buy exactly what they are looking for. People looking to relocate call, email and visit us daily looking for information on moving to Sheridan County. We, of course, are not shy in selling the community we love. Locals call with questions about businesses, events and unique questions that if we don’t know the answer, we will find out. Chamber members and businesses seek out the Chamber for resources, networking and referrals.
The best part is that we don’t stop at the front door. Once you’re inside, we offer connections and resources for businesses and the community that only a one-stop-shop like the Chamber could provide. There is no way to give you exact numbers, but I hear these words all the time: “Thank you for introducing me to so-and-so. We are going to work together on a project,” or “I met so-and-so at the Chamber Luncheon and they are going to be my new client.” The list goes on and that’s what we pride ourselves in: being the connection point for visitors, people looking to relocate, businesses and the community. The Sheridan County Chamber has been in existence for 104 years because it continues to be relevant and necessary for the community to thrive.
At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m going a little overboard on the sales pitch, most likely because that’s my job. On the contrary, I am writing this as my last community perspective article from the Chamber.
I will be starting a new role at another local nonprofit in September and I wanted to share that what I have learned about the role of the Chamber in the community is invaluable.
While I may not work here much longer, I will continue to stay involved and take advantage of all the Chamber has to offer. Plus, if you haven’t met the dynamic team who makes the organization effective, it’s about time. CEO Dixie Johnson is the real deal. She is one of the most hard-working people I know and everything she does is with integrity. If you want to meet someone who has the best interest of the community in mind, I recommend you come shake her hand. The rest of the team, Karen Myers, Teresa Detimore and Jodi Hartley are also all top-notch and make it hard for me to leave.
But, I leave an organization that is truly being effective in Sheridan County and will continue to do so. Bravo, Sheridan County Chamber, you blew my socks off!
Ryan Koltiska is the director of marketing and communications at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, but will leave the post to start work with another nonprofit, KidLife, in September.