Seventy-five years ago, a large group of business leaders decided this area needed and deserved a chamber of commerce. The Tri-City Area Chamber of Commerce was established in 1940 to serve Granite City, Madison and Venice.
In 1963 when the village of Pontoon Beach was established, the chamber’s service area was expanded to accommodate the village as well as the unincorporated area of Mitchell. However, it was not until 2000 when the people of the area were asked to rename the chamber to better identify the five communities that now make up the service area. The two-month public contest was covered in the newspaper; with dozens of names being suggested, it was narrowed down to six. The name selected leaves no doubt as to what we are, and where we are located. This chamber has never had a doubt what its mission was because the mission has not changed in 75 years. We are here to “support the advancement of business and quality of life within our community.”
Today, we have only added to and enhanced that 1940 goal!
A community can become productive and more powerful when it includes everyone; when people pull together for a united cause, that power becomes unlimited. This chamber has adopted that philosophy and has been fortunate to have an extremely active business community that is interested in growth that is striving to change perception, and is working to establish new business opportunities.
It is the members of this chamber who have provided the power, allowing us to set productive and worthwhile goals, and programs that are beneficial and fulfilling to individuals, as well as to our business community.
Diversity is the major driver in this chamber because our members range from employers who manage thousands of people to the small one- and two-person businesses. The expertise, involvement and willingness these people bring to the table is a priceless resource the chamber has access to daily. It is the business leaders’ never-ending ideas and their unconditional willingness to become involved that will permit our business community to continue growing.
We are an industrial community in that perfect location in the heartland of America, offering everything needed for business: an extensive transportation network that includes four major interstate highways, direct water access to the Mississippi River by two inland ports, various rail lines and some of the largest employers in Southern Illinois. Our industrial base is what feeds the need for the hundreds of other businesses that are part of this chamber.
I have listed some of the programs, events and activities that are part of our chamber. Some were actually the idea of our members; each program, committee and idea is strengthened and amplified because of our member’s unwavering and sometimes even passionate involvement.
In 2006, the chamber established a 501C3 not-for-profit foundation, It Starts Here. This foundation was originally created with one goal, to change the perception of the area. This was being done with cleanup and beautification programs. In the past few years, there have been a couple of additions: the Leadership Programs and the What’s Right, Right Here Program.
The foundation allowed this chamber to present the Route 3 project, which included:
• Cleaning 7.5 miles of Route 3 from Highway 270 to McKinley Bridge
• Designing, building and maintaining 44 flower beds at each of the intersections
• The planting of 800 trees
• The cleaning of the 2-acre entrance to Illinois from McKinley Bridge
• The designing and building of the McKinley Bridge Park
• The designing and building a historical kiosk within the park
• The building of a 5-story steel sculpture, “Salute to Steel”
• Maintaining the park that welcome visitors into the State of Illinois
The “It Starts Here Foundation” and St. Elizabeth Healthcare Foundation have joined forces allowing them to establish the Congressman Jerry Costello Scholarship in 2012 — inviting students from St. Clair and Madison counties to apply for medical scholarships.
The two foundations working together presented $64,000 to eight medical students this year. It is the goal of SEHF to present a sizable gift each year to applicants who have been accepted into a medical field.
The Chamber of Commerce presents the only leadership program in Madison County.
The program focuses on hourly and non-exempt employees who have the potential of becoming leaders within their organizations. Our goal is to help develop basic soft, technical and business-related competencies necessary to help these people succeed. In this ever-changing, competitive business environment, our goal is to grow leaders by developing those that have the capacity, the drive and the desire to accomplish and contribute more.
We have just completed the third Leadership Program introducing speakers with years of experience from over the entire United States and countries such as Canada, Kuwait and Malaysia and trainers who work with Fortune 500 companies and nationally recognized sport teams. These 30 participates are presented with an impressive list of university level competencies each year.
The ART of Business
The needed funds to present this biennial Leadership Program are raised at The ART of Business, a black tie event that allows the chamber to recognize and honor a local industry. In 2011 the recognition went to the steel industry, the processors, cutters, all manufacturing in the steel industry. In 2013 it was the medical profession, the profession that plays such a vital role in the most precious and the most terrifying times in our lives. On Oct. 24, we will be recognizing the manufacturing industry and the transportation system as we celebrate the chamber’s 75th anniversary involving hundreds of people and highlighting the eight decades the chamber has played a vital role in the community.
This chamber, of course, offers many chamber-type events and activities over and above the life-changing work of the foundation. Other happenings are things such as:
The chamber website, www.chamberswmadisoncounty.com, that is hit an average of 65,000 times per month.
Business and Industry Appreciation Evening: This is an evening that bring hundreds business leaders together in a social setting, allowing the chamber a venue that introduces our newest business leaders and it give them the opportunity to discuss their company with their new peers.
At the 2014 event Patrick Murphy of Channel 9 introduced: Ted Jackson, General Manger of Baily Noodle International, Don Vichitvongsa, General Manager of Suncoke Energy, and Frank Netemeyer, Project Manager for the city block that the Lascelles Group is developing and the four businesses that are presently open for business.
What’s Right, Right Here: A program that highlights the many positives in the chamber service area of Granite City, Madison, Venice and Mitchell.
Citizen of the Year: This is awarded to a person who has demonstrated success in their chosen business or profession, provided extraordinary service to the community, and exemplified high ideas in their personal life.
The Dan Brown Memorial Golf Playday: The annual Chamber of Commerce Playday has been one of the finest golf tournaments in the area for over 60 years; five years ago it was renamed in memory Dan Brown, who had served as the chair of the Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Golf Playday Tournament for 10 years.
Business to Business Programs: Programs that focus on giving our business community tools for success, such as Marketing, Generational Differences in the Workplace — Conceal & Carry in the Workplace
Eggs & Issues: These informative business breakfasts feature speakers addressing key issues and timely information that affects not only the business climate but the community as a whole such as The Levee Issue, State of the County - Do You Know What Regulatory Changes for 2015 Are Coming Down From The Illinois EPA, OSHA, and Illinois Workman’s Comp. Upcoming on June 25, the program will be “How Does The New Health Care Reform Impact Your Bottom Line?”
Lunch with Your Legislator: This is a small group of business leaders casually discussing their concerns and accomplishments within their own businesses with their invited local legislators.
Annual meeting and auction: A fun evening when the community comes together with a few hundred people recognizing the Community Service Award recipient, the Lifetime Achievement recipient and the Citizen of the Year.
Business Before and After Hours: Allow chamber members to host an event either before work from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. or after work from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., both providing a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for networking by chamber members, their employees and guests. We are one of the few chambers that does not charge their members to host a Business Before or After Hours.
Commemorative month recognition of businesses and people in our communities: The chamber will be featuring a monthly group picture of the great services, the talented people and the many businesses in our area: Ribbon Cuttings, Grand Openings Ceremonies, Facility Expansion, New Services Offered, Anniversary, Open House and/or when you become a new member of the Chamber of Commerce.
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These are each opportunities to “Welcome, Introduce and to Promote” businesses in the community. There is no charge for any of these services.
“Did You Know,” an email newsletter, is sent weekly to more than 800 businesses.
Members are encouraged to send information regarding any happening in their business for this publication, at no cost to the member.
Only together, as a community, can we give beyond our individual means. Thank goodness this Chamber, like our business community, can enjoy and draw from the diversity of the people and the businesses that make our area a strong and productive place to call home.
Rosemarie Brown is the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County.