Highlights, goals discussed at annual chamber meeting

With 2012 in the rearview mirror and most of 2013 still over the horizon, members of the NYA Area Chamber of Commerce gathered for their annual meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Chamber members reflected on some of the organization’s accomplishments in 2012, discussed a few objectives for the coming year, and also looked for new leadership with the departure of three board members.

Curt Wilson and Cody Teslaa were recognized for their service after finishing their terms on the board, and Kermit Moe also stepped down from the board with one year of his term remaining.

In their place, the chamber elected David Sprik of the Paul-McBride Funeral Chapel. One full three-year term and a one-year term remain open, however.

“The big thing going forward is to get those spots filled on the board,” said Chamber President Chris Lund, adding that the role involves meeting on the first Wednesday of each month, usually at 7 a.m. before the business day begins. “It’s not a huge time commitment, but I think it’s important that we fill the board and we would like to have some more retail representation on the board. If you don’t run a retail business you might not have a strong idea of what is needed to help advertise for that business sector.”

The next board meeting is set for Feb. 6 at 7 a.m. at Unkle Thirsty’s.

“Anybody is welcome to attend,” said Lund.

The crowd on hand during the annual meeting consisted of about 40 people, and the evening included a meal catered by Mid-Town Family Restaurant and entertainment by comic and juggler Jason Huneke.

Highlights of 2012
The chamber had an active 2012 that included the Business Expo in the spring, helping to run a rest stop for the Tour de Tonka in the summer, putting on the Taste of NYA for the third year in a row, hosting a Music in the Park night and more.

While Lund said the Business Expo didn’t attract as high a turnout as planners had hoped for, it was a step in the right direction as far as creating visibility for local businesses.

The Tour de Tonka event was a big success, with much positive feedback from participants and organizers, and NYA will be a stopping point for the same event in 2013.

“The liaison from Tour de Tonka that was there had nothing but glowing remarks. And a lot of the riders that came through said that this was the most organized station that they had visited. So that was good not only for the city, but also for the Tour as well,” said Lund.

Local residents and visitors from as far away as Delano and Belle Plaine were also able to enjoy mild weather during the Taste of NYA in 2012 for the first time in that event’s first three years. A storm cut into the first annual event, very hot temperatures may have kept some visitors away in the second year, but all went smoothly last year and the chamber hopes for similar luck this year.

Lund emphasized that vendors who come out to the event don’t necessarily have to be food-related, despite the title.

“Even if you’re not a food vendor you can still have a booth there and do an activity and get your name out there in the public,” he said. “Even though it’s dubbed ‘The Taste,’ we still want some of our other chamber member businesses in town to get their face out there and mingle with the few hundred people who walk through.”

A similar event was the chamber’s Music in the Park night, where members passed out ice cream bars and about 150 bags of promotional materials for local businesses to the residents on hand.

As far as holiday promotions and Small Business Saturday, Lund said the chamber collected around 74 slips for the promotion, which hopefully helped spur activity at local businesses. That participation was higher than in years past.

Another non-event related success in 2012 was that the chamber, in conjunction with the city, was successful in its request for a variance to keep business district signs for both the north side and south side of town on Highway 5 and Highway 212.

State regulations had required that only one business district be signed, but NYA’s unique heritage as two divided cities was evidently sufficient grounds for an exception to be granted.

“That’s a big win for the business community. At least now people will understand that we have those two different areas,” said Lund.

2013 objectives
The chamber will pursue many of the same activities and events this year, but also hopes to add new informal “coffee chats” on a monthly basis, where a local business will open early and provide coffee and rolls for chamber members to gather and connect.

“It’s a chance for chamber members to come in and learn a little more about that business,” Lund said. “Waconia does it. It’s a good networking time. As chamber members it gives us a chance to mingle in a non-meeting situation and talk about how are things going. It’s a good thing for business leaders in the community to have that conversation.”

Another suggestions was to do something similar to Waconia’s scarecrow contest —an event that isn’t necessarily advertising but is more of a fun community event.

An ongoing challenge, Lund said, is to continue increasing membership and encouraging participation from existing members. Last year the chamber consisted of about 63 business, and Lund said one goal is to increase participation by about 10 percent. The chamber would also like to add more businesses from Hamburg and Cologne now that it has expanded its range.

“We’d like to keep figuring out how to encompass this whole area,” said Lund.

The chamber’s next quarterly meeting will likely take place in April, but an exact date was not yet available.

Contact Paul Downer at paul.downer@ecm-inc.com

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