Editor’s note: Fifth in a series reviewing 2012 through various departmental statistics and numbers in and around St. Clair.
The St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce experienced a banner year in 2012 and one of the best years it has had in quite a while, its executive director, past board of directors president and current president said.
“I really believe we had a monumental year,” said Executive Director Angela Crawford, who was hired in December 2011 to oversee the not-for-profit organization’s day-to-day operations. “To accomplish what we have in my first year here is amazing. What else can you say about it?”
The local Chamber is governed by a nine-member board with three members elected to three-year terms annually.
“The board was upfront with me when I started about some obstacles we had to overcome,” Crawford said. “And we worked on them as I got my feet planted in the community.
“We ended up exceeding my expectations this first year.”
The Chamber’s year featured several highlights, the best of which was membership increasing almost threefold. When 2012 started, Crawford said there were 42 members. By the end of the year, that membership total had swelled to 120.
“That increase is just phenomenal,” 2012 board President Keith E. Domke said. “We were struggling as a Chamber in 2011, but all of us really worked hard in 2012. Being a Chamber member has strong advantages in a community, especially a community like St. Clair, and we did a good job communicating that to citizens and businesses.”
“We did a better job communicating those benefits of Chamber membership,” she said. “We improved our public relations and really just hit the streets talking it up. Through that, we not only succeeded in increasing membership, but we created a better environment for growth in St. Clair.”
One way Chamber information was passed along to local businesses literally was through pounding the pavement. During the first half of the year, board members and Crawford personally visited business owners in the city as a way to introduce the new executive director as well as talk about the advantages of Chamber membership.
When Chamber membership hit 100 during the summer, Crawford and the board had a small celebration.
The Double Bull Sports Bar officially became the 100th member on Aug. 28.
“I’d call that a highlight,” Crawford said.
In addition, the Chamber’s website was revamped, making it “much more user-friendly,” Crawford said.
The result has been a more frequently visited site. In December alone, there were 80,000 hits, Crawford said.
Other 2012 highlights were continuing the monthly membership luncheons, which usually take place at Budget Lodging. A wider variety of programs were offered and consisted of information sessions from the Quality Coach, area hospitals and other groups and organizations. Also, the Chamber played host to candidate forums, and Mayor Ron Blum gave his annual State of the City address in January.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from organizations and companies to present programs (during the luncheon),” Crawford said.
Bob Triphahn, the Chamber board’s 2013 president, said he believes the dedication of the executive director and the board were major factors in 2012 being a good year.
“The St. Clair Chamber positioned itself as a viable entity by first hiring our new executive director, Angela Crawford,” he said. “Angela’s experience, drive and determination to make the Chamber successful will take the St. Clair community far.
“Second, the membership has elected individuals to the St. Clair board who have a commitment to improve St. Clair and the surrounding area. Third, the Chamber has and will continue to partner with the elected officials of St. Clair to bring businesses to the St. Clair region.”
The organization’s annual Celebrate St. Clair banquet in February last year also was a success. This year’s banquet is scheduled for April 6 and will honor individuals and businesses who made a difference during the past year.
The 2011 citizen of the year was Joyce Janes of Farmers & Merchants Bank. The St. Clair Missourian was named business of the year.
As 2013 settles in, Crawford said she hopes to continue the Chamber’s momentum gained in 2012.
“We’re certainly moving in the right direction,” she said. “We want to keep moving forward.”
On the list of Crawford’s goals are to revamp the membership dues structure and help the city establish an Enhanced Enterprise Zone.
As far as his focus, Triphahn said continued success for the Chamber this year “will be measured by how well the Chamber improves the business environment through expanding business opportunities and informing the community so that the community realizes just how much St. Clair has to offer its citizens.
“I also believe that the Chamber can improve communication and networking amongst businesses and the community,” he said. “We will continue to expand our website to make it a viable source of community information.
“I look forward to the challenges ahead,” he said. “St. Clair is a great community, and if it wasn’t I personally would not be here.”
Other 2012 board members besides Triphahn and Domke were Vice President Tim Davis, Secretary Bethany Perryman, Treasurer Mike Murphy and Paula Dace, Charlie Butler, Stephanie Smith and Debbie Mitchell.
In 2013, Nathan Tate, Laura Sullivan and Matt Beeson joined the board replacing Dace, Butler and Mitchell.