The Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce has “made leaps and bounds in the right direction,” as Chamber board president Ian Wilkinson said at the Chamber’s annual meeting Feb. 27. In the past year, the Chamber has “gained ground, has become a more trusted organization in the community through their (the board’s) hard work,” he said. About 60 persons attended.
Chamber board members with Wilkinson are vice president Philip Heisterkamp, treasurer Pete Russell, secretary Jill Morton, Jill Johnson, Rosie Tucker and county supervisor Pete Bardole.Wilkinson presented outgoing board member Mike Holden with a plaque and thanked him for his service.
Wilkinson explained the name change from Greene County Chamber and Tourism to Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce. The original and legal name for the group is Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce. More importantly, Wilkinson said according to Chatterkick, a group that was hired last summer to assist with branding and marketing for the community, people are eight times more likely to search online for a city name than a county name.
“The name change doesn’t mean we’re turning our backs to the surrounding communities in the county. What we hope this does, is the more people we can get to come here and visit, the more trickle-down effect this will have for all communities in the county, not just Jefferson,” Wilkinson said. “All we want to do is try to rebrand ourselves and give the world the easiest way to find our community.”
Highlights of 2019 were shared. Bardole chaired the Chamber’s events committee. The Chamber assisted with Market to Market Relay in May, served an ag breakfast, hosted a golf outing, and helped with the Amazing Race for Charity. Hot August Night, held under Chamber auspices but chaired by Chuck Wenthold, attracted 350 cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles.
The Chamber also assisted with the Big Dream gathering and the weekly Java & Juice gatherings.
Heisterkamp chaired the first Winter Festival which drew more than 750 visitors to see 47 decorated Christmas trees, take carriage rides, and enjoy holiday spirit. Fifteen of the trees were donated for auction, raising $1,300 that was donated to New Opportunities’ Toys for Greene County Kids program.
Morton is chairing the Ambassadors group, which is working to renew membership and visibility.
Russell chaired the 2019 Bell Tower Festival. The festival, reorganized by a committee of past festival chairs, began with a negative bank balance and ended with $11,000 as start-up for the 2020 festival. Heisterkamp will chair this summer’s event, slated for June 12-13.
Tucker is chairing the promotions committee and organizing “Retail Revamped” with a goal of having special promotions the second Saturday of each month. Participation in the promotions is open to all merchants regardless of whether or not they’re Chamber members.
The 2020 calendar includes a bicycle poker run, a return of Summer on the Square, and a wine walk.
Chamber membership milestones were recognized as follows:
• 10 years – PAWS
• 15 years – Region XII Council of Governments, Jefferson Veterinary Clinic, Greene County Fair Association and Sparky’s One Stop
• 25 years – Subway, Jim Teusch DDS, and State Farm Insurance
Greene County school superintendent Tim Christensen updated attendees on construction of the regional career academy and new high school, which is said is “going fantastically.” He also announced Iowa Central Community College is working toward added adult education offerings in the career strands that will be offered at the career academy.
Owner’s representative, former school board member Sam Harding, showed construction photos.
Chris Deal spoke about the upcoming BOOST Bash. A highlight of the live auction will be the sale of a monthly tour of the school construction project.
Deal also provided an update on The Forge. There are 40-45 students in the “pipeline” for the software development training that will be offered there. Company officials plan to have 10-15 employees in the building next year, with 25-30 permanent positions in seven years. He also said the Fellowship Hall there is available for use by area non-profit groups.
Shirley and Gary Haupert next provided an update on the Greene County Christian Action Resource Center food pantry. According to Shirley, “a lot of great things are happening here.” The ARC served 1,297 families in 2019, averaging 12-14 families each month.
The Hauperts were presented with the Above and Beyond the Call (ABC) Award to conclude the meeting.
The high school Jazzatonics provided entertainment prior to the meeting program