President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier
For the past thirteen years I have had the pleasure and honor to work with a wide variety of businesses and organizations throughout our region. Along this journey I have met some exceptional people who work in some extraordinary organizations. Each walk through the door of a business always reveals something new about its products or services, how it operates, a specific issue it is facing or a new opportunity it is embracing. As we enter a new year the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association are taking this opportunity to reflect on our own accomplishments and lessons learned in prior years, setting the foundation for the year ahead.
Our organizations and the people involved in them are uniquely positioned to make significant positive change within our communities and to drive regional progress. Over one hundred volunteers spend several thousand hours each year working on boards, committees and specific projects of the Chamber of Commerce and MAST. It is these volunteers in concert with our management team who are helping make our region an even better place by enhancing our business environment as a means of encouraging growth and development. It is the spirit of these volunteers and the hard work of our team that makes me look forward to 2013 and the coming years as there is so much opportunity ahead of us.
There are hundreds of specific examples of how these groups of people enhance our communities, yet I will highlight a select few. One of our objectives is to drive more foot traffic into local businesses. Through the work of six community Chambers of Commerce that are part of the County Chamber over one hundred events are coordinated throughout the County. These activities bring people into the communities and bring exposure to businesses in those communities.
A second objective of our organization is to help members increase sales. This year the Chamber and Manufacturers Association implemented a new customer relations management platform that is improving the ability to find our members on the world-wide web and is increasing referral opportunities for our members. The Chamber operates a gift check program that distributes over one hundred and twenty thousand dollars worth of gift checks among our member businesses per year, an approximate two hundred thousand dollar economic impact on our local economy and a $2.4 million impact since the program began.
A third objective of the organization is to facilitate health insurance options for our members. Ours is a two-part strategy of providing our members with the best possible insurance options and navigating our members through the changes that will occur in relation to the Affordable Care Act. We continue to make innovations within our current health insurance product offering as we provide the only private-based insurance exchange option available to businesses in Western New York. Simultaneously we are working diligently in Albany and in cooperation with our peers throughout New York State to assist with and influence the development of a public exchange that meets the needs of our businesses.
A fourth objective is to advocate for our businesses with a focus on property tax reduction. The property tax cap is encouraging more rapid structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Yet we recognize and continue to advocate for more mandate relief from New York State. There is progress occurring in our region as we witness school districts working with each other to share services and discuss possible mergers in an effort to maintain high quality education and contain costs.
Our fifth objective is to support and promote economic, workforce and tourism development. Most notably we expanded the Dream It Do It (DIDI) career initiative regionally this past year. As we saw our County based DIDI program continue to grow in participation and impact, we launched a new component of DIDI as we formed the Chautauqua STEM Education Coalition, with a focus on enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math educational opportunities in school systems throughout Chautauqua County. Working with the Chautauqua County Visitor's Bureau and a variety of community partners and business we coordinated Major League Fishing's Summit Cup to be aired on the Outdoor Channel in January and NBC in February, delivering the wonderful assets of our county to a world-wide audience.
As we look toward 2013 and beyond we will build upon the programs and initiatives that we have developed in our continued efforts to support the business community. Part of our focus is to continue to expand our capacity to accomplish our goals. This is done by growing our membership, continuing to build meaningful partnerships with organizations across our communities and regions as well as further developing our volunteer base. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association or are interested in volunteering in one of our initiatives or programs send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 484-1101 or 366-6200.
Have a great New Year!