forces area chambers
to tighten their belts
measures lead to
cutting programs, staff, but membership
remains strong, officials say
Helen E. McKinney
(February 2010) Serving businesses is what
many Chambers of Commerce are all about. Intended to be a support system,
some chambers have had to scale back in certain areas to continue serving
their members without sacrificing quality benefits.
Such measures are being taken across the region and affecting chambers
in Oldham and Carroll counties, as well as Prospect, Ky., and nearby
The past year has been a tough year for many of our businesses
in the area, said Deana Epperly Karem, executive director of the
Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and interim director for Oldham County
Economic Development Authority (OCEDA). Early in 2009, we had
identified that it could be a tough year and that an outreach person
would be necessary.
That person was David Bizianes, whose main responsibility is to work
with Oldham County businesses to identify areas of growth and challenge,
said Karem. In his role as business outreach manager, he is also responsible
for membership sales and economic development projects. The Chamber
and OCEDA partnered to hire Bizianes.
By the time we got David on board, the economy was really starting
to suffer, but David got right in there working with businesses,
Karem said. His actions allowed the chamber to react quickly to members
needs and provide support to them.
The chamber has withstood the downturn in the economy very well,
said Oldham County Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Robin Lawson.
Since Biziane came aboard, We have actually grown our membership
over the past year while most organizations are down 20 percent or so.
The chamber has had a successful year in recruiting new members, said
Karem. We are constantly working to identify ways to grow membership
One way they have done so is by adding more marketing opportunities
and not raising the cost of memberships. A new Membership Outreach Committee
was created to aid in retaining current members as well as recruiting
Existing members are being offered a chance to renew their membership
for free. If a member recruits three new members this year, their renewal
will be half off. If they continue recruiting and attending events they
will receive points and credits, so that when enough are earned, a member
may be eligible for a free renewal the following year.
Lawson admits that chamber renewals are down as a percentage due to
some members going out of business, or simply choosing not to spend
their dollars on the chamber. But many new members have been added,
he said, and numbers are up from one year ago in terms of total members.
by Don Ward
say 250 people
participated in the Madison Area
Chamber of Commerces Annual
Dinner held Jan. 27 at Hanover
College. The crowd was only
slightly down from last
years 280 attendees.
The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce has around 415 members,
with some being Top Investors, said Lawson. This means they
are willing to invest in the efforts of the chamber. It is their
membership dues that help fund the chamber, with a small amount of money
coming from Oldham County Government and the City of La Grange.
Karem said the chamber plans to be more engaged with public policy issues
in 2010, something she believes is an important aspect of chamber membership.
Even though the chamber has seen a drop in sponsorships and been challenged
in collecting some membership dues, this past year was a record year
for chamber members to attend programs. I think this is mainly
due to our efforts to keep them fresh, interesting and informative,
The chamber recently played host to its first After Hours in OC,
a successful networking event. Having the opportunity to learn
about other businesses within the community is part of what the membership
dollars are used for, Lawson said.
The chamber has decided not to hold its annual golf scramble because
of low participation, Lawson said. He said the chamber would offset
this fundraiser with revenue from other sources.
Across the river in Madison, the nearly 400-member chamber has retained
its membership levels although renewals are still coming in, according
to David Collier, executive vice president of the Madison Area Chamber
We will continue to try and offer as many services as we can,
Collier said. But the Madison Chamber has not been as lucky as the Oldham
County Chamber of Commerce.
Collier said the chamber went from four staff members to two staff positions
in early January. The two staff members each brought many years experience
and knowledge to the table and it was difficult to see them go.
We couldnt afford to have the size staff we once had and
our resources for funding partners shrank, said Collier. This
affected our budget and limited our staff.
Funded now primarily through membership, fundraising events will need
to be held to aid in supplementing other activities, he said. We
look to continue to offer different events and programs we have had
in the past.
by Don Ward
Director Deana Epperly Karem
addresses the crowd at last
years Showcase luncheon.
At the Annual Dinner, held Jan. 27 at Hanover College,
Collier announced that the chamber would be moving back downtown to
its former location at 301 E. Main St. The move stems from the boards
decision to locate the office in the heart of the downtown business
district and because the regional Small Business Development
Center office was moved from Madison to New Albany, Ind. Both shared
office space on the Madison hilltop at the Venture Out Business Center.
But now with only a two-person staff, the chamber believes it can be
more visible in the downtown in a building it already owns.
Another change for 2010 is the chambers decision not to hold its
annual Bridal Fair in March. Collier said this was not due to economy
cutbacks, but rather to scheduling conflicts, because of the chambers
Tele-Auction fundraising event held one week before the Bridal Fair.
They also lack the staff to pull it off, he said. He said
the chamber plans to resume the Bridal Fair in 2011.
On a positive note, he thinks new businesses see the value in being
a member of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. A new incentive offered
to members this year involves a partnership with Hanover Colleges
Center for Business Preparation.
For four months, Business Strategy students will spend time with a local
business owner (and chamber member). These top business students will
evaluate, draw up a proposal on how to attain what the business owner
wants, and present it to the business owner in April.
by Don Ward
County Chamber of
Commerce members take part
in the 2009 Showcase Oldham
County business luncheon
in Buckner, Ky.
The big benefit to chamber membership,
he said, is the help offered through promoting and bringing together
businesses. Businesses are able to share resources and connect
with others to help the business and community grow.
In Carrollton, Ky., the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce continues
to serve its membership, despite the economic challenges.
Fortunately, there have been no cuts in programming, but the economy
has forced us to rethink the way we accomplish things, said Mark
Smith, newly installed board president. As an example, he cites last
years annual chamber banquet where instead of paying a national
speaker to come, the chamber focused on local talent by featuring contestants
from Carroll Countys Got Talent, a talent show of
In the end, we sold more tickets to the event (we believe because
of the local flavor), and were able to reduce expenses of the banquet,
he said. The chamber has put a big focus on a Buy Local
campaign to help show the value of being a chamber member.
The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce has not had to cut staff like
some other chambers. It employs a full-time paid administrative person,
Bret Calhoun, who is a shared resource between the chamber and Carroll
County Community Development Corp.
by Don Ward
Area Chamber of Commerce
Executive Vice President David
Collier (far left) helps conduct a
ribbon-cutting ceremony for newly
opened Choice Assisted Living
Christian Home in Hanover, Ind.
Ribbon cuttings are still popular for
area chambers of commerce and
bring visibility to new businesses.
Current paid membership is at 79, said Smith. A 10 percent
discount was offered to members who joined or renewed their 2010 membership
during last Septembers Business Celebration Day.
This year, the chamber is looking to expand its services to include
more after hours networking opportunities. Our members tell us
networking is very important to them, he said.
Like all businesses, the relatively new Prospect Area Chamber of Commerce
has taken a close look at all areas of the organization to make
sure we are being good stewards of our members monies while at
the same time providing them with the needed services to maintain and
grow their businesses, said Kathy Jacobs, membership director.
Jacobs said the chambers membership grew by 26 percent in 2009
and is off to a great start in 2010. She attributes it to our
current members who are the best source of recruiting PACC has.
Through June 30, 2010, the chamber is offering current members a renewal
credit of $25 per new business they bring in, up to $100 in credits.
The PACC continues to mail out a Community Directory to more than 10,000
homes and businesses at no cost to those receiving it.
The PACCs Community Expo event, held this year on May 13, is a
wonderful marketing tool, said Jacobs. Its also
a great opportunity for community members to see what PACC members have
to offer in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.
Monthly events are well attended, Jacobs said. They will continue having
the same events, plus adding a new one. The PACC will be participating
in a joint charity fundraising event with the Lyndon Area Business Association
to benefit Kosairs Kids in the 2010 Charity Bowl.
The PACC continues to focus on membership value and how we can
help and support our members and community, said Jacobs. We
will continue to do what we have always done.
Back to February 2010