Chamber provides progress update

HOUGHTON – The Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce board updated members on the organization’s progress over the past year at an Eggs & Issues forum Thursday.

After a set of years in which expenses exceeded income, the Chamber of Commerce was in the black in 2012. Next year looks to be even better for the chamber, with a projected surplus of more than $20,000, said Treasurer Jay Ringler.

For the first time in Ringler’s six years on the board, the Chamber is debt-free, he said,

“We did a really good job of getting everything under control,” he said.

Membership is somewhere between 450 and 500 members, Ringler said.

Throughout 2012, the Chamber worked to refocus its activities into three core areas: supporting, attracting and developing business. Those included things such as Eggs & Issues and Business After Hours events, and collaborations with the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance and the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Eggs & Issues events are a mix between industry, economic development and governmental issues, said board member Lisa Dunnebacke.

“We try to have an even balance about how we provide support to our membership,” she said.

Among the goals for 2013 is hiring a new executive director. Whether that director starts this year is dependent upon budget and membership, said Secretary Karyn Olsson. The refocusing is allowing the Chamber to save up for the position, Olsson said.

“We’re working really hard, because we feel that the executive director position is going to help us provide services back to the business community,” she said.

More revenue is hoped to come from increased membership. To that end, the Chamber revamped its rate structure to be less confusing, both for new businesses and Chamber members trying to pitch it. The new four-tiered structure includes community partner ($200 for businesses with one to nine employees, $400 for 10 or more), $800 for developing partners, $2,000 for leadership partners and $4,000 for superior partners.

“I think it’s a change that’s going to allow us to not only support our existing members by communicating what we do and how we do it in a two-page document, and also allowing us to better communicate to the lost members what’s going on, what we’re doing, and then new members in the area,” said board member Brent Burns. “It’s a lot easier.”

The board also presented an honorary lifetime membership to Houghton City Manager Scott MacInnes. Board member Michael Scott praised MacInnes, who he said “is always promoting the area, promoting the individuals within the area and promoting the businesses within the area.”

MacInnes thanked the board for the honor.

“It’s really a pleasure working with everybody in this community, and there’s so many neat things happening,” he said. “I think all the stuff that the Chamber does and all the potential we have in this area is great. I just love doing it. I’m touched.”

The board also re-elected Olsson and Glen Tolksdorf to the board, and elected new members Matt Thayer and Greg Seppanen.