2014 Year in review
The year began with a change in leadership and a promise to refresh the chamber organization. The Annual Independence Day Celebration went on as usual and the weather cooperated to make it a success. The board established monthly board meetings, which identified the many challenges faced by the revamped chamber.
One of our first goals was to revamp our membership package. We updated our membership form and created a statement of purpose or elevator pitch. This is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event.
The Smugglers’ Notch Area Chamber of Commerce represents the business interests of our region by focusing on these Four Avenues of Service:
- Promotion – Highlighting member businesses and the region (Information booth, brochures, press, web media, gift certificates).
- Education – Identifying and communicating key business strategies with our members.
- Networking – Encouraging Interaction and support between members.
- Community Support – Actively serving the community through sponsorships, events and volunteerism.
New membership was up by 7 last year and we already have 5 new members this year. We expect this trend to continue as we revamp programs and gain previous CAE members.
Talks began with Cambridge Artists & Entrepreneurs to find common ground and a way to consolidate the efforts of both groups. I’m pleased to announce that the process is completed, and well received by the community. Former board members of CAE have joined the chamber and created a committee to carry on the accomplishments and projects they created. The CVT committee will focus on digital outreach and community engagement, focusing on the CambridgeVT.com web portal, the Free Wi-Fi program in the villages, and the monthly speaker series among other projects.
As usual, we supported the Arts Council in the Festival of the Arts program and will continue to do so. We also created a large format copy of the trail map from LCPC and the conservation commission, and posted it inside our information booth in Jeff Village. The chamber also supported the historical society’s Civil War Days and a 5k Run for the Dogs.
Winterfest was enhanced with new activities this season, and was a smashing success. The weather was quite cooperative and we added events like sledding, mini-snowmobiles, a fire walking demonstration, and a Hot Chocolate Dash.
Chamber members were active participants in the Community Visit project hosted by the Vermont Rural Development Council. As a result, the chamber is now represented in CEDAC, the Cambridge Economic Development Advisory Committee. Based on a question about the various community groups, the chamber developed a list of community organizations and created a page on our website. A board member also became involved in the Trailhead Committee, which is developing a parking area and signage at the Cambridge Junction Covered Bridge site. We also attended a meeting of the Vermont River Conservancy who are looking to establish a river trail on the Lamoille. The preliminary study features a potential access portal at the covered bridge site, yet another possibility for showcasing Cambridge as a recreation destination. All three groups have welcomed the input of the chamber on marketing to showcase Cambridge as a destination for access to the new rail trail.
A new group started talks to create a for-profit triathlon event centered around the Cambridge Junction covered bridge area. The chamber agreed to be the presenter of the event, managing finances, web support and publicity. Due to the long lead-time required to establish a sanctioned event and the legal unavailability of the trail until late summer, the event has been tentatively scheduled for 2016.
The board addressed the issue of political action and chambers of commerce. Of particular concern to some potential members was any affiliation with the ultra-conservative US Chamber of Commerce. Our chamber avoids such political action, has always opted-out of funding such efforts, and drafted a document stating our official opinion. That statement is posted on our website.
On March 1 we were informed that Ray Saloomey was leaving the board of directors and the chamber. Ray also informed us that he would not participate in 2015 Independence Day activities. Efforts to change his mind were unsuccessful. His leadership had been the guiding force of the Chamber for many years, and an immeasurable asset to our community. As a token of our sincere appreciation, we extended to Ray a lifetime membership in the Chamber. Unfortunately the offer was declined. Because of insurance issues, we were then forced to withdraw our offer of continued inclusion of the primitive biathlon as part of Winterfest.
Areas where we failed to accomplish our goals were in the LocalFocus gift certificate program, refreshing the information booth program, a welcome package for new businesses in the community, and more frequent membership meetings. All of these items will be given top priority in the coming year
Projects for 2015
Establishment of project committees
Information Booth program
New Member welcome package
CVT projects – web portal, wi-fi, Business Speaker Series
Continued emphasis on increasing membership
Creation of a “Destination” marketing program
Triathlon – Run, Bike, Kayak
Support of Rail Trail and Trailhead
Possible sponsorship of other seasonal events
- Artist Open House (with CAC)
- Food Festival (with CFAM)
- Maple House Tours
- Summer Music Series
- Covered Bridge walking tour
- Fall Festival