By Melissa Reichert
President Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce
Governor Walker has declared September as Chamber of Commerce Month in Wisconsin. What does the Chamber of Commerce do? That is a question that I have been asked many times over the years as president. Based on the calls we get to our office it seems that many residents view the chamber as their one call for help. One of the first calls received when I started working at the chamber was from a lady that wanted me to schedule pest control services for her because she had bugs. There have been frantic calls for us to send flood restoration crews to a resident’s home and calls from supposed lottery winners to verify their prizes. Residents also know that we are the go to place for business referrals, start up information, community events, and gift certificates.
Although the activities of day to day vary, the answer to what we do at the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce (HoW CoC) is Empower, Network, and Promote- people, businesses and resources. This mission is accomplished through empowering people to start new businesses and grow existing businesses with revolving loan funds, and business training. Our business retention and expansion team empowers business by assisting with solutions to challenges. People are empowered through participation in the Community Leadership program to make a difference in the community through experiential learning including service projects and skill development.
Students in our middle and high schools are empowered through career bus tours that provide information to plan their future education to acquire jobs with local employers of choice in our community. Local employers share their business story and have students experience jobs with their company. Legislative Breakfast events get information about government and the individuals that hold and run for elected positions.
Networking is a way of life for the HoW CoC. Twice a month Local Leads groups gather to share business leads and opportunities with one another. This results in an average of $250,000 in business transactions being conducted through participation in the group. The Annual Dinner Meeting is another event that is synonymous with networking.
President of the Regional Economic Growth Initiative, Rick Bakovka shares:
“The Heart of Wisconsin Annual meeting and Awards night is a celebration of personal and business success for the past year. The networking and relationship building that occurs this night renews the friendships and expectations, the enthusiasm and optimism to succeed in the year ahead.”
Events such as Lunch by the River in Wisconsin Rapids, Rendezvous by the River in Nekoosa and Gather by the Gazebo set the stage for networking in a setting filled with entertainment, food and fun. The Summer Hummer golf outing and Mardis Gras Business Expo also provide business to business sales connections in a relaxed environment. These opportunities hit home for members.
Promotion of our people, businesses and resources takes many forms. It includes advocacy for our businesses at the state level during Central Wisconsin Days. Industry promotion can found in events such as the Cranberry Blossom Festival each June. Member business referrals, Food Recommendation Fridays, and other social media marketing campaigns promote the business community.
Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink sums it up nicely:
“Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce provides businesses of all sizes an opportunity to be connected, have a voice and further their success in Wisconsin Rapids.”
We are proud to be a leader in the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executive organization and share in the success that has led to recognizing September as Chamber of Commerce month in Wisconsin.