As we close out 2016 and look ahead to the new year, we cannot help but be filled with hope and promise. The stage has been set by many years of hard work by many people to successfully culminate in 2017. Commercial property interests are increasing, the energy industry is returning, our core businesses are growing and our business parks are ready to be developed. There is renewed vigor in Indiana County and we are open for business.
Throughout the past year, the Chamber continued to grow, attracting many new members to strengthen our base and further our determined efforts to enhance Indiana County’s business community and overall quality of life. During the calendar year, the Chamber added 85 new members bringing our total membership to 676 currently. We thank all of you for your commitment to the Chamber and Indiana County.
We also know this has been a challenging year for many businesses in Indiana County. With the downturn in the energy industry, the uncertainty of the economy, global fears – 2016 was a tough time for our nation. But we are resilient and faithful, hardworking and inventive; we are Indiana County proud. The Chamber is committed to working with our County leaders and partners through the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations to attract new businesses, retain and grow employment opportunities, and rejuvenate our local economy. The Chamber has spent a great amount of time this year trying to attract new retail opportunities for Indiana County. We don’t want our local residents to travel elsewhere or shop online for what they need; we want them to find it right here. And we are confident those efforts will bear abundant fruit soon. Good news is coming for Indiana County!
As always, we are here to support our members and the overall business community. To assist our members and grow the Chamber and Indiana County, we hired a marketing manager in April. Annie Rizzo, an IUP graduate and Indiana County native, manages our marketing efforts through advertising, promotion and social media. She is also here to support our members with those endeavors.
We continue to make improvements and create more opportunities for our members to network and stimulate more business-to-business connections. Here are some of the 2016 highlights:
The Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) continues to grow with more than 180 members currently. The group will be changing leadership with Tae Ayers from S&T Bank taking the reins from Luke Shively with McNaughton Moving and Storage who has been the chair of the YPO since 2014. The Chamber’s YPO is fostering future business and community leaders for Indiana County. We published a new comprehensive membership guide to enable our members to take full advantage of all the benefits, products and services the Chamber provides.During the Chamber’s fiscal year 2015-16, we held or hosted 70 plus networking events and activities attracting more than 6,000 attendees.We expanded our breakfast Chamber Check-In opportunities to include member locations.The second annual Indiana County Business Hall of Fame was held in June. We revamped our weekly e-newsletter to provide more information and opportunity for our members. Our subscriber numbers will soon reach 5,000!We conducted and promoted 14 ribbon-cutting ceremoniesWe held a successful Summer Membership Drive attracting 22 new members. Our membership referral contest continues year-round. We increased promotion efforts to IUP students through printed materials and on-campus advertising.The Chamber continues to be a regional presence through media outlets and representation on various boards and commissions.
The Chamber’s main goal continues to be delivering great products and services for our members while also working to improve the overall business climate and quality of life for Indiana County. Our staff – Jill, Annie, our interns, myself - are passionate about the Chamber, our members and Indiana County and truly appreciate the support of our membership and community.
As we plan our goals for the Chamber in 2017, some of the new initiatives we will undertake include:
Expanding our use of video production to market and promote our members, the Chamber and economic development opportunities in Indiana CountyCreate 30-second promotional video segments for businesses that host Chamber Business After Hours Promote and market Indiana County through regional and national television advertisingFills gaps in retail business sectorWork with the ICDC and CEO to recruit new employers to Indiana CountySupport all of our small towns and communities in Indiana CountyExplore and implement plans to capitalize locally on the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver CountyConduct a spring membership driveImplement a business crisis roundtable for struggling businesses that may need support or guidanceExtend our ambassador and member outreach programsPartner with our educational institutions to address workforce gaps and develop career paths for students that will lead to family sustaining jobs meeting the current and future needs of our region
If you need assistance at any time, please call or email the Chamber. And you are always welcome to stop in and say hello. We are here to help you succeed in 2017. Thank you again for your steadfast support.
Happy New Year!
James B. Struzzi II