By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The Gadsden/ Etowah Chamber is using the new year to reevaluate its many programs.
“It’s a continuous process,” said Chamber President Heather New. “Each year we look at everything that we do at the end of the year and we determine ‘Was it effective?,’‘Is it being used?’ and ‘Is it something our members desire or need?’ We try to look at what our members’ needs are and re-tool every single year. And we are doing it again for 2018.”
The successful programs, those that are well-attended and are providing a utilized service to the Etowah business community, will remain the same. The programs that were not being utilized will be reworked with input from Chamber members.
Business and Gravy, an early morning breakfast networking event, and Business After Hours, an evening networking event are both well-attended programs that will remain mostly the same.
The Chamber 101 program, mostly used to teach members how to use the Chamber’s online interface, will become ChamberU, which will still go over the interface, but also offer a more comprehensive overview of how to utilize member benefits. Network at Noon will become Chamber Counsel, which will offer business-specific networking events in sales and marketing, human resources, finance and administration and nonprofits. The event will allow members to share insights with others in their fields.
In addition to reviewing the success of programs, New said that she also reviewed the Chamber’s finances
“2018 is going to be the first year since I came here in 2011, and the first year that I am aware of, that we are going into our fiscal year with a budgeted deficit,” said New.
“We lost $25,000 from the City of Gadsden support that we did not anticipate,” said New. “So, 2018 will be a challenge, but it’s one we are ready to tackle. We are dedicated. We are not going to decrease services. We are actually going to provide more services to our members.”
Despite the loss of funding, New said that the Chamber has “shown consistent growth over the past six years in new members and membership renewals.”
Last year 166, new members joined the Chamber bringing the total number of members to 840, of mostly businesses and nonprofits.
In 2017, the Chamber received over 5,120 registered guests at Chamber events. Many individuals attend several events, but about 1,680 individuals benefitted from Chamber programs last year. New warned that those numbers may not be completely accurate, as not all attendees register beforehand and occasionally registered attendees fail to show up, but more often fewer register than attend the events.
Revenue-wise, New said that The Chamber made about $6,400 more in 2017 than it did in 2016. An unexpected $5,000 grant from the Etowah County Commission is also helping to fill The Chamber’s budgeting gap.
The Chamber also offers Leadership Etowah and the Student Leadership Council. Both classes promote leadership in the community through seminars that focus on different forms of community leadership, such as nonprofits or government. Leadership Etowah is geared for adults, while the Student Leadership Counsel selects two juniors from each high school in Etowah County.
Every year the Chamber hosts the Chamber Annual Meeting, where the board will bid farewell to 2017 Chairman Jason Wilson and welcome 2018 chairwoman Tena King and three new board members; the Etowah Small Business Awards; the Advancing Women to the Top Conference; and the Business Expo, which this year will move from Gadsden Convention Hall to 210 at the Tracks to provide more booth space.
The Chamber has added two additional events this year: The Excellence in Education Awards Luncheon and the Chamber Classic Invitational Golf Tournament. The Excellence in Education Awards Luncheon will be held April 2 to honor those that personify educational excellence from daycare to secondary education. The Chamber Classic Invitational Golf Tournament will be held April 20 at Silver Lakes Golf Course.
To become a Chamber member, the base fee is $275 a year. To learn more about The Chamber and its many programs or to become a member, call 256-543-3472 or visit www.etowahchamber.org.