Chamber Corner: December 26, 2017

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Written by
Todd J. Tranum
President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

2017 was a Solid Year for Chamber & MAST Membership

What a ride we’ve had this year, and as it comes to a close we are grateful to have the strong support of our members. Here at the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association it’s been a year of new challenges and we have risen to meet them and seize many opportunities along the way.

Working with our Community Chambers we tried something new last spring: Mornings on Main, as we launched our own listening tour in communities throughout Chautauqua County. Those coffee hours with small businesses helped us refocus on the needs of our small business community. They asked for help to drive customers into their businesses and we listened.

One of the key outgrowths from those sessions is the brand new Shoptauqua Gift Card. For a long time we have been looking for a way to update our former Chamber gift check program to make it more convenient for both our small businesses and the customers who have purchased gift checks in the past. This year we were able to find a provider that allowed us to create a closed loop merchant system, so the money remains in Chautauqua County and the gift cards can be spent only with local member businesses.

It’s only been a few months but we already consider the Shoptauqua Gift Card to be a tremendous success. Thanks to the sponsorship we received from the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, the new gift card program is free for any member of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce to participate. We have over 100 local merchants participating!

In addition, since this October we have sold over 1,000 Shoptauqua gift cards, for a total of more than $40,000 in sales! That is money that will be spent at businesses right here in Chautauqua County. If you are the lucky recipient of a Shoptauqua gift card, we strongly encourage you to try one of our locally owned businesses you may not have patronized in the past. From restaurants to retailers to specialty items and museums, the Shoptauqua gift card can be used for a wide variety of products and services. To learn where you can spend your Shoptauqua card, please visit www.shoptauqua.com.

This year has been another busy one in our health insurance and employee benefits field. Our licensed broker, Kevin Sixbey, joined the team early in the year and has been working hard with existing and new health insurance clients for many months, with a dedicated eye towards helping each business or individual find a plan that works best for them at a an affordable price.

Our Dream It Do It program added Jehuu Caulcrick to the team, working to encourage young people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math. This STEM-based recruitment is aimed at building a workforce pipeline into jobs in manufacturing and science-related fields. Our annual STEM Wars event at Jamestown Community College saw a record turnout last spring with over 950 students from local schools participating.

The Chautauqua County Education Coalition took a big leap forward this year by growing the stakeholders engaged and helping shepherd significant projects that are strengthening our learning system. The Education Coalition, under the leadership of Director Justin Hanft, works to foster cross communication between education, business, and community leaders. With over 60 organizations participating, CCEC is focused on benchmarking and improving kindergarten readiness, identifying career pathways that connect to healthcare and manufacturing, and coordinating and aligning offerings of cohort trainings for in-demand occupations in healthcare and manufacturing.

While we work on these important workforce development initiatives, membership remains the backbone of our efforts at the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. Our six Community Chambers in Dunkirk, Fredonia, Hanover, Jamestown, Mayville-Chautauqua and Westfield-Barcelona are working daily to help support small, local businesses by providing events and opportunities to highlight their unique qualities. Each of our vital Community Chambers creates meaningful experiences that help to bring business people together and to help drive foot traffic into our local member businesses. Supporting local business is our most important work. We thank all of our members for their continued collaboration this past year and look forward to making 2018 an even stronger year for our local economy in Chautauqua County.

Westfield-Barcelona Chamber Hosts “Fish” Contest

Just as Buffalo proudly displays its bison statues and Saratoga displays its horses, the Westfield area community will soon be known for its fish in recognition of its proximity to the tremendous fishing waters of Lake Erie. The Westfield-Barcelona Community Chamber of Commerce is taking orders for blank fish cutouts, which will be decorated and displayed throughout the community this coming summer. The fish dimensions are four by two feet, and 48 of them are available for organizations to purchase at a cost of $15 each. Then it’s up to the purchaser to decorate their fish however they see fit, and to make sure it’s weather-proof for outdoor display.

The decorated fish will be kept secret until they are unveiled on Friday, June 1 – the opening First Friday of the 2018 season. They will remain in place for the summer or until they are worn out or damaged. Businesses can display their fish project in front of their location, and others who don’t have a storefront will be given a designated spot. Locations of each of the fish will be numbered and mapped to encourage people to move about the town and village, and ballots to vote for favorite fish will be available for 25-cents each at First Friday on June 1. The winners of the contest will be announced later in the summer.

Anyone who wants to reserve a blank fish can get more information from Sue Poster, Community Chamber Coordinator, at sposter@chautauquachamber.org. Purchased fish will be delivered in February.