With her first full year as Washington Area Chamber of Commerce president/CEO officially under her belt, Jennifer “JB” Giesike said she is pleased with 2013.
Giesike, who had served as Fair coordinator, took the place of Mark Wessels, who retired at the end of 2012.
Giesike sat down with The Missourian to look back on 2013 and discuss projects and goals for the new year.
One of the biggest accomplishments was the completion of the Chamber’s new website, at washmo.org/chamber, which launched March 1.
“We really worked hard on revamping the website for our members,” Giesike said, adding that the site is easier to use and members can post their own page to the site.
Even those who don’t have their own website can now have an online presence, she said.
“It was time for it to be updated and changed,” Giesike said. “Everybody seems to like it.”
Year of Transition
This past year also served as a year of transition for the Chamber staff. In addition to Giesike’s new role, several other positions were updated in the office.
Amanda Griesheimer, who was both Chamber of Commerce and Washington Fair assistant, took a new position as marketing director.
Filling her position was Becky Stieffermann, who began at the Chamber in April.
“It was a huge year of transition for this office, and it went so smoothly. Everybody worked so hard,” Giesike said.
In 2013, the Chamber hit its financial goal of $335,000 in pledges for the concert stage and event center, which was one goal laid out for 2013.
Fair a Success
The Fair also was a success.
“There was great weather and entertainment,” she said.
For the 10th consecutive year, the total economic impact of the Washington Town and Country Fair has topped the $1 million mark — setting a new highwater mark at $1,410,352.
Overall, this year’s Fair posted a net profit of approximately $364,386, up $187,211 from 2012.
A new, permanent motorsports building will be erected this year for use at the Fair. The building will replace a trailer that has been used for nearly two decades.
Plans for the building include storage, the PA system and possibly a place for concessions.
A junior Fair board was established in 2013. The board, for students in middle school, high school or an equivalent program, was responsible for helping to promote and execute the Fair.
Like the main Fair Board, junior board members will be split up into committees, such as marketing, AgriLand, concessions, family fun center, home economics, livestock, parking, the parade, as well as other committees and subcommittees.
In 2014, Giesike said the board plans to host an event completely on its own.
The Chamber launched its Young Professionals program in 2013.
Giesike said she had been interested in starting a Young Professionals group ever since she served on a similar group for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE).
A member luncheon and recognition was held in September to honor the first class of 13 professionals.
“It was really great to be able to recognize those young leaders in Washington, amongst our members, and to see that the businesses that nominated them really feel strongly about those who work for them,” she said.
Giesike said the Chamber also focused on looking at events and resources offered to Chamber members.
“We’ve tried to come up with new things, tweak some of the old things and to make it fresh and new,” she said.
In 2013, more “Marketing Mondays” were held and a new networking group “Wake Up to WashMO” was implemented.
Wake Up to WashMO is an open house held at a different business each week. It is held every Tuesday morning from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Giesike said that while this was the first year for the group, she hopes to continue to grow it and that people will take advantage of the group.
The Chamber also hosts Business After Hours, which is a similar group held in the evenings.
A finance committee also was started in 2013, which includes Chamber and Fair Board members.
“They’ve really been looking hard at the Chamber’s financial position and trying to be more conscientious of (the finances),” she said.
The Chamber also has a healthy reserve in case the Fair doesn’t do as well as expected.
Giesike said the Chamber staff and board have been supportive and thanked them for helping make her first year run smoothly. She added that she’s happy to have made the transition and looks forward to what the new year will bring.
“It’s been an outstanding year,” Giesike said. “I think people are going to continue to see new things and new changes. There are exciting things coming from the Chamber,” Giesike said.
The biggest goal is always to act as a resource to members, Giesike said.
“We can work with them, help them and be a benefit to them,” she said.
In 2014, Giesike said membership will continue to be a focus.
The Chamber has started a membership drive, which she said will be ongoing.
The Chamber has about 550 members and is the second-largest budgeted Chamber in the St. Louis Metro area.
The Fair impacts the budget.