The solar eclipse, increased memberships, improved monthly meetings and streamlining services were highlights of the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

Solar Eclipse

One of the biggest highlights of 2017 for the Chamber was solar eclipse weekend Aug. 18-21, according to Executive Director Charlene Saling.

Jo Schaper helped put the website together, which included the weekend events, information for lodging, restaurants, maps, parking, view locations and more.

June 1 was when the website went live and as of Aug. 30, there were more than 100,000 views and 52 comments from users throughout 80 countries. On Aug. 20, there were 14,330 views and on Aug. 21, there were 15,801 views.

Saling said visitors commented that the website was a driving factor for them visiting St. Clair. In addition to the website, the Chamber partnered with the city to put on the “Cruisin’ the Eclipse on Route 66” car show Sunday, Aug. 20.

The car show featured 200 antique cars along Main Street.

“Our downtown merchants were overwhelmed with the event and they’re looking forward to this happening annually,” Saling said.

The next car show is tentatively set for Sunday, Sept. 23, she added.

Initial meetings for the solar eclipse started in April 2016. Their annual strategic meetings are held in January.

“The goal that came out of our strategic meeting was to promote local businesses and drive customers to our member base during this eclipse event,” Saling said.

She added that the Chamber met its goal during the eclipse weekend. The partnership with the city included developing core committee meetings and to invite people to participate.

Three goals that are carried forward with every planned event are communication, partnership and business development, Saling said.

“We’ve kept those in mind in most everything that we’ve planned throughout 2017,” she said.

Disbanded Committees

The Merchants Committee and the Beautification Committee were disbanded last year.

“We felt like they weren’t a match for the Chamber. And when doing that then, you need to come up with something else, so we came up with the car show, which was a great success,” Saling said.

The purpose of the Merchants Committee “initially was to promote business and activities,” according to Saling.

“At the time that we disbanded, its primary focus was on the (St. Clair) festival. So with the eclipse, we really felt like that wasn’t something we could do effectively.”

The St. Clair Festival is an event the Chamber will continue in the future, but under a new committee, she said. Members of the Merchants Committee formed their own Missouri Impact Group.

Beautification projects did continue, but not directly under the Chamber. The committee’s annual 5K run also did not happen last year.

“We were able to partner with other people in the community and beautification projects did continue,” she said. “Bart Coleman has always done a great job.”

Other Highlights

The Chamber is the contract manager for the St. Clair License Office. Last year, the longstanding manager retired and the assistant manager stepped up, according to Saling.

The assistant manager “continued to exhibit great strengths in customer service to those that visited our license office.

“We feel that our location and the quality service that we give is one of our great strengths here,” she said.

She noted other Chamber strengths such as “our strong, diverse, forward-thinking board of directors and the changes that (have) taken place, (which) have been a great benefit to our community and moving it forward throughout the Chamber and business community.”

Not only did the Chamber membership reach the 200 mark in memberships, there was an increase in attendance for monthly meetings. Saling said the increased attendance was due to the quality speakers at the meetings.

Last year, the Chamber joined the Missouri Chamber and Industry Programs.

“There are a lot of young people who have come back and made their life here in St. Clair with new businesses and so we kind of wanted to focus on that,” Saling said.

Additionally, the Chamber sponsored Chamber President Jamie Keen to participate in the Leadership Missouri Program last year. She visited nine Missouri cities and presented her experiences during the October meeting. This year will be her second year as president.

“What she learned last year, she can actually put into effect this year,” Saling said.

The Chamber also sponsored three St. Clair High School students to a youth leadership program and they also discussed their experiences at that same meeting.

Saling added that the Chamber belongs to the Missouri State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the Missouri Chamber Federation.

Looking Ahead

Communication and partnerships are goals for 2018 in addition to focusing on memberships, membership benefits and “how we can drive business into our storefronts,” Saling said.

The Chamber will continue with ribbon cuttings, business after hours gatherings and bringing “worth to each one of our monthly meetings.”

This year, the Chamber will be planning another large event for the city’s 175th anniversary.

“Coming off of the eclipse, we had big shoes to fill for 2018, but coincidentally, we will have another big event and we’re hoping that it will be just as successful throughout a year long process,” Saling said.

Board of Directors

Listed below are the names and offices held by the SCACOC Board of Directors for 2018:

Jamie Keen, president; Tim Baker, vice president; Justin Strauser, secretary-treasurer; Tim Davis, director; Clayton Buckthorpe, director; Carla Pelton, director; Nadine Aitch, director; Chris Dulworth, director; and Donna Hagedorn, director.