As a local businessman, I realize the impact that a thriving chamber of commerce can have on its members growing, promoting and succeeding in business.
I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play a role in the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce as board chairman for 2013 and 2014. At the beginning of my term, I set four objectives. I am happy to report that with the help of a progressive and supportive board and staff, those four objectives are now in place for our membership. They are:
• Implementation of a new, cutting-edge website,
• Development of a strong social media presence (Facebook and Twitter),
• Increasing and improving our products and services,
• Adding events to promote networking and business-to-business interaction.
I hope you’ll agree that 2013 was indeed a good year for the chamber. Changes that took place include a new president being hired to replace longtime president Dana Henry, who retired in March. Henry served the chamber for 18 years, and is credited with helping to create the foundation of membership we stand on today.
Jim Struzzi took the helm as president in April. He brings a great deal of experience and expertise to the position. As former PennDOT assistant press secretary, Jim returned to Indiana from the Pittsburgh area. He came back to Indiana with his family because of their love for the community. His experience, coupled with his heart for community and sincere commitment to Indiana County, bring a high level of success to his service with the chamber.
To his credit, the chamber added more than 50 new members in 2013. We look forward to even more growth with Jim’s guidance and leadership.
A tremendous annual luncheon in early December at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex capped a successful year for the chamber. Robert Nutting, principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was gracious enough to accept our invitation to be our guest speaker.
He wowed the 470 guests in attendance with video highlights of the Pirates’ successful season, as well as his organization’s commitment to community charities. His presentation was as inspiring as it was informative. The staff at the KCAC has earned a “shout out” for their exceptional hospitality. It is no small feat to serve more than 400 guests in the short time that a luncheon provides, but the KCAC staff made it look easy. The KCAC has already been chosen to host the 2014 annual luncheon.
Nutting proved to be a hard act to follow, but I tried my best by introducing an upcoming innovation, called the Center for Internships.
Structured as a log-in website, it will serve as a conduit between college students and chamber members who are interested in finding student interns.
The site will allow student interns to post resumes that businesses can search, based on various criteria to find a potential candidate who meets their needs. The Center for Internships will be linked from the chamber’s website, www.indianacountychamber.com. Our goal is threefold:
• To provide an efficient way for members to find and contact qualified interns.
• To provide opportunities for students to become involved in our county’s businesses by performing intern work.
• To encourage talented, young people to eventually pursue careers and build their lives beyond college in Indiana County.
While our county’s youth will find a place to work through the Center for Internships, our county’s established business. greats will soon enjoy a place of honor in the chamber’s new Business Hall of Fame.
As an IUP graduate and business owner, I see a need for our community to recognize the many key business leaders who have gone before us, making a much brighter future for the county. In an effort to celebrate the achievements of the county’s finest business leaders, the chamber will host a yearly Business Leaders Hall of Fame commemorative dinner for inductees and their families, to be preceded by an annual golf outing.
In other business, the chamber continues its relationships with the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations and the Indiana County Development Corporation. This year will see exciting news for Indiana County at the Route 119 Joseph Land Development, as well as the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park near the Routes 422 and 286 interchange. We are committed to creating and sustaining jobs to grow and strengthen our economy.
We also remain committed to our partners at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana Regional Medical Center, the Indiana County Manufacturing Consortium and the Indiana County Technology Center. I speak on behalf of our entire community when I laud each one of these partners as vital and irreplaceable.
The chamber also recognizes the crucial role agriculture plays in our community. Though often unfairly unsung, it is a well-known fact that farms create jobs and provide essential products to society. The family farm is alive and well in Indiana County, they have a presence in the chamber, and the chamber continues to do everything in its power to keep the business of farming going strong.
If you aren’t already a member, I urge you to join now. The chamber represents its members’ viewpoints on important issues facing our county and state to its lawmakers. Make your voice heard by participating in our upcoming surveys that will help to solidify the chamber’s positions.
Also, the weekly email blast, with close to 4,000 subscribers, is a solid two-way communication tool that continues to grow. Take advantage of this incredible market reach to promote your business. As my dad would say, “the fish are jumping in the boat.”
Another tried and true marketing tool for you to take advantage of is the annual chamber Expo, to be held in April at the Indiana Mall. Its usual date in January made for difficulties with the weather. We are hoping that a spring date will benefit members and attendees alike.
As I look forward to 2014 and envision the goals I have set for my second year as board chairman, I see that we again have our work cut out for us. I want to publicly thank our very dedicated and tireless board of directors and staff for their first-rate service and continued support. I also greatly appreciate our members, who continue to be the driving force for our improvements.
Finally and especially, many thanks to our wonderful community, which is at the heart of all we do. God willing, this will be another great year for the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce!