By: Margaret Dillard – Chamber President
Fairmont Chamber dues and sponsorships: Do these contributions really make a difference?
This month marks my 3rd anniversary as President of Fairmont MN Area Chamber. The conclusion of each 12 month period prompts me to look upon what we have accomplished and to ask what our business community needs next. My steps are guided by chamber members because they financially support our work and the dozen plus business leaders who make up an excellent board of directors. Their directives are carried out by three staff and myself.
When we all win, we all win.
- We are able to be effective because we work well with government, schools and other organizations to achieve common goals and objectives and because a foundation of work was achieved by prior boards and staff. A few things make us rather unique:
• One might think that collaboration is common but more often than not, there are barriers.
• When we think of creating a healthy business environment, we consider all of our community and when we think about all of our community, we consider all of Martin County.
• We consider all ages and cultures. (You’ll read how later in this article.)
When communicating the value of investment in chamber programs and projects, it’s somewhat difficult to narrow it down. There is not room here to list our scope of work, (If you want to see the list, visit us online or call us. We’re always happy to talk about what we do!) but I’ll attempt to encourage individual and business participation by featuring some Chamber programs and projects.
“What keeps you up at night?”
It’s a question that I have been asking business people in Martin County for three years. Lack of skilled labor, workforce housing, healthcare, childcare, government regulation and business taxes are resounding concerns. Shop local awareness and programs that address declining populations also are part of the conversation. Among them, lack of qualified workforce is the chief universal leader across industries no matter how many the businesses employ, size of facility or how much revenue they generate. Fairmont Area Life, a local program that encourages professionals to call the Fairmont area home is a comprehensive effort that is recognized throughout the state. The project received funding from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and recognition from University of Minnesota Extension.
Yet, I get weekly correspondence from community members that we don’t have quality jobs locally. It’s a frustrating paradigm! So, making sure that we communicate our message is important, as well. That’s why we take the time to publish this newsletter, distribute e-blasts and launch social media campaigns.
Teaching the next generation of business people.
That a small business organization like ours is able to begin to address the workforce challenge by collaborating with public and private schools to teach business concepts to children in kindergarten through 8th grade is truly extraordinary! Each year we must raise more than $12,000. We work with more than 35 volunteers and 50+ educators to facilitate that program.
Encouraging youth to choose to stay or come back.
One day each April, approximately 80 businesses and organizations, showcase local career opportunities to 650 10th graders from twelve southern Minnesota and northern Iowa high schools. They set up interactive displays that show what skills are needed for their industry in the Fairmont High School gym, while a dozen or so young professionals pose questions to student representatives from each school upstairs in the Performing Arts Center. This game show demonstrates that millennials have chosen to call our area home! We voice to students that hundreds of people choose to participate because they care about them and their futures. Area Career Exploration – Fairmont is known throughout the state as being highly organized and effective.
Joe Brown, Superintendent of Fairmont Schools speaks of recruiting 80 among the 120 total staff in the past 8 years. Many are new to our community so each October, chamber staff facilitates a banquet to welcome them to our community. Businesses sponsor dinner for themselves and a new teacher, then are paired at the event. New teachers also receive a bag of goodies from businesses and information about our area.
Chamber staff stays busy AND focused!
I could go on about how staff provides services for various foundations/organizations. We field countless calls about community events and resources. Our office is the ticket agent for Jefferson Bus Line. We send baskets of snacks and local information to career candidates’ hotel rooms. We counsel businesses to improve their online presence. The point is, we do a lot of work here and, I believe it is work that strengthens the very fabric of Martin County.
Consider joining us!
Since we don’t rely on government dollars, memberships and sponsorships fund our work. Businesses and residents alike are invited to join this local Chamber of Commerce. Individual membership is just $99 and basic business members (complete with online support, networking opportunities, advocacy efforts, social media and online visibility and more.) start at $326 annually. If you are prepared to join soon, you will be able to begin receiving benefits in October and your investment will cover the rest of 2017 and all of 2018! Consider joining the Fairmont Chamber. If you would like more information, I would be honored to sit down to talk!