Chamber Issues Impressive Report

A Chamber is generally known by how well goals are accomplished in the areas of Leadership & Impact, Economic Opportunity and Market Growth, Regional Advocacy and Community Focus, and Fiscal Integrity and Operations.  In the first six months of 2010, the Chamber has accomplished the following.

Leadership and Impact
1) Hired a manager of Equine Development for the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. Edward (Ed) Scanlon was formally introduced at the Chamber's 92nd Annual Dinner in late January and began his duties on February 1. As the manager of Equine Development, Scanlon spearheads efforts to grow and preserve the $72 million-plus equine industry in Aiken County. He works closely with the Equine Steering Committee, four sub committees, the Chamber leadership, and the community at large to move visions to action and to meet goals. Scanlon brings a vast equine knowledge and an international equestrian network that will help to preserve and grow the area's equine industry.

2) Spearheaded an in depth, five-hour strategic planning session for the Aiken Chamber Young Professionals that resulted in a well defined vision and bold action steps for 2010 and beyond. The aggressive plan features five bold steps with a vision that focuses on three areas - networking, community service, and educational events designed to nurture future leaders of the Greater Aiken area.

3)  Partnered with the Economic Development Partnership in recruiting MTU employees
and their families to relocate from Detroit to the Aiken market.

4)  Continue to monitor the City of Aiken's proposed Highway Overlay District Ordinance. The Chamber had a strong presence at an April 18 meeting when the City Planning Commission met with City Council to determine upcoming priorities.  Following the meeting, City Council decided to postpone consideration of the Highway Overlay District Ordinance for a year.

5)  Supported the City of Aiken's 175th anniversary, Celebrate Aiken, with a feature story in the 2010 "Welcome Aiken" magazine and an Annual Dinner theme that complemented the yearlong event.  Continues to support Celebrate Aiken with representationon the steering committee and appropriate promotion of Celebrate Aikne events.  The Aiken Chamber is one of the top five sponsors of Celebrate Aiken.

6) The Chamber Ambassador Program continues to grow and play a vital role in the Chamber's success. The 2010 team is comprised of 40 Ambassadors serving our business community. They meet each month during lunch to learn about what the Chamber is doing and what is going on in the community, so they are informed when they meet with Chamber members. The ambassadors provide continuous support to monthly Chamber events and to Aiken's Makin'.

7)  In the first six months of 2010, 46 professionals in various fields shared their expertise and delivered timely, innovative, and powerful information to Chamber members.

Economic Opportunity and Market Growth
1)  406 Chamber members have been invited to focus groups with the Chamber President to discuss business issues and concerns.  More focus groups will be held during the second half of the year.

2) Extended business-to-business opportunities for members through Business After Hours, an informal environment affording power networking opportunities. Six Business After Hours have been held with more than 1,050 business people attending since January.

3)  Planned and executed six gathering events for the Young Professionals group to give them an opportunity to meet for networking and sharing of information. To date, total attendance has exceeded 500.  Current AYP membership is 198.

4) The Chamber's Equine Steering Committee has grown to 104 members. Four active sub committees continue to work toward goals in order to preserve and grow the equine industry. The sub committees are Conservation, Open Space, and Integrated Trails; International Horse Park; Governmental Affairs; and Marketing.

5)  Produced the 2010 edition of "Welcome Aiken" that features the business directory of Chamber members along with their goods and services. The annual publication is full of useful community information for visitors, current residents, and those looking to relocate to the area.

6)  Partnered with Aiken Downtown Development Association to provide visitor information packages during Masters Week, including 4,000 official Aiken Chamber maps and 2,000 "Welcome Aiken" magazines, which brought exposure to all advertisers in both publications.

7)  21 teams of business professionals benefited from business-to-business networking during the Chamber's 6th Annual Parsons Spring Golf Classic.

8)  Currently planning the 22nd Annual Industry Appreciation Golf Tournament to recognize local industry for the jobs they create and for their investment in the community.

9)  Supported small business growth through partnership with SCORE (Counselors to America's Small Business), which provides consultation to new and established businesses.

Regional Advocacy and Community Focus
1)  The Aiken Chamber planned and led the annual trip to Washington DC to advocate on issues of importance to the region. Thirty-seven business, civic, government, and education leaders from the CSRA went on the trip. The CSRA Leadership Group is a joint initiative of the Greater Aiken Chamber, the Augusta Metro Chamber, the Columbia County Chamber, and the North Augusta Chamber. Some of the issues addressed with U.S. senators and representatives and key department heads included:
-- The Savannah River Site status and concerns
-- Fort Gordon
-- New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam
-- Air Quality

2)  The Aiken Chamber and the North Augusta Chamber, along with other local groups, supported the Aiken County Board of Education School Bond Referendum.

3)  Planning the fourth annual "State of Our Community" Luncheon to be held August 25, noon to 2 PM, at the USCA Convocation Center.

4)  Continuing Chamber representation on the SRS Community Reuse Organization, a two-state, five-county organization that works to bring new economic initiatives to the CSRA.  Chamber President/CEO J. David Jameson currently serves as Chair of the Board for 2010 and 2011.

5)  The Chamber's local government liaison, Gary  Allington, continues to add value to the membership as he attends Aiken City and County governmental meetings and keeps the Chamber leadership informed on impending issues/ordinances that impact business.

6) Execute the plan of the Work Force Development Committee to focus on meeting the future needs of business and industry. The Committee has partnered with Celebrate Aiken to provide a career exploration component to the Business, Innovation, and Technology Expo, scheduled for July 17 at the USCA Convocation Center.

7)  The Aiken Young Professionals completed a service project, Celebrity Waiters Night, and raised $1,800 for Children's Place.  They will also be involved in the 4th quarter of Celebrate Aiken.

8)  Extensively planning the 34th year of the Aiken's Makin' Arts and Crafts Festival, scheduled for September 10 and 11 in the downtown parkways.  The steering committee is working to adapt the festival layout based on the current parkway construction.

9) On multiple occasions the Chamber has encouraged the membership to participate in the City of Aiken's strategic planning process - "Aiken's Tomorrow - Local Acts Global Impacts."

10) On multiple occasions the Chamber has encouraged the membership to participate in Aiken City Council's small business forum.

11)  Recognized and honored the Man, Woman, Youth, and Chamber Ambassador of the Year, as well as the Large and Small Business of the Year, at the Chamber's 92nd Annual Dinner.

12)  Continuing to provide quarterly cost-of-living data to a national database to ensure that the demographics of the CSRA are accurately represented.  This information has helped to meet the criteria necessary for Aiken to be designated as a top retirement community.

Business Training and Education
1)  Launched the Spring Business Academy to meet the demands of the membership, which included numerous requests for information on social media.  The first session of the Spring Business Academy covered social media and legal issues, and the second one covered using social media for marketing purposes.  More than 150 Chamber members attended the two sessions.  Topics for the Fall Business Academy have been set.

2) First Friday MeansBusiness continues to attract area businesses for networking and learning. On average, 120 people attend the monthly event, bringing the current total to 720. With timely business topics and up-to-date information, featuring City Talk, County Talk, and Chamber Talk, the monthly breakfast meetings keep the membership well informed on important topics.

3)  The Women in Business Spring Series, entitled "Business Success - Inside and Out," stressed the need to look and feel healthy in order to achieve business success.

Fiscal Integrity and Operations
1)  The Chamber's membership remains strong in numbers. During the current economic times, our members continue to participate in timely programs and events and to verify the Chamber's value to them through their annual membership renewals.

2)  The Board of Directors received a clean and unqualified opinion on the 2009 audit, and we continue to provide audit quality books to our auditors.

3) Continuing to invest in technology in order to deliver a high value product to our members.  The Chamber recently launched a new, next generation, website designed to get visitors where they need to be quickly and to provide pertinent informationand links in an organized manner.One of the website's prominent features is the Chamber Business Directory, where people can search and find products and services of Chamber members. All member websites listed in the business directory are hot, so visitors can access a member's website immediately.

4)  The Chamber built a new conference room, which will house the SRS Heritage Foundation offices beginning in July.  The organization was seeking a downtown location on a temporary basis until it acquires a permanent location of its own.

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