Chamber plans pickle party
While stabilization was the key in 2011, the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry is looking to take a step forward in 2012.
Perhaps the chamber’s most ambitious plan for 2012 is to organize an inaugural summer event at the McHenry County Fairgrounds in early June.
Claussen Pickles and Kraft Foods have announced plans to pay for well-known national bands in conjunction with a pickle festival. While the bands have not been finalized yet, Shari Gray, executive director of the chamber, said the event is being dubbed Pickle Palooza.
“It’s a big undertaking for us as an organization because we are so small,” Gray said, “but it’s going to be a good thing for the chamber … It’s been a lot of hard work for a lot of people, but we’re happy about it.”
The Independent will provide more details about the festival as they become available.
Gray said the communication and events committees at the chamber were as strong as ever in 2011. Weekly email blasts are sent to all members, a monthly newsletter is distributed and a Facebook account is consistently updated to help members and the community keep in touch.
“Communication has improved 100 percent,” Gray said.
While Gray admits the membership committee is still progressing, she said she is happy the chamber had a 90-percent retention rate among members, as well as a handful of new members in 2011.
Strong buy-in and participation from membership, Gray said, is the key to a successful chamber. Membership now stands at around 250 members, which is similar to where it was last year.
Gray said the membership support was especially important at the beginning of 2011 when the chamber experienced a water main break, causing significant damage and expense at the chamber building. Gray said the fact that the chamber made it through such a setback is a testament to how far the chamber has come in recent years.
In an effort to actively engage more business owners, Gray said the Small Office Home Office – or SOHO – group was established. The group, which met for the first time in late 2011, is in its beginning stages.
“About 70 percent of our members are small- or home-based businesses,” Gray said. “So far, I’d say this has been a home run.”
The premise, Gray said, is to allow these small business owners opportunity to bounce ideas off each other or express similar frustrations and possible solutions to common problems. Ultimately, it will be up to the members to choose the direction of the committee, however.
“We want to continue to be relevant to members, and the direction [the SOHO group] takes is really going to come from them,” Gray said.
While the chamber has attempted to recommit to the industrial segment in recent years, Gray said there is still work to be done. She said the chamber would continue to seek out avenues to help bring the industrial community together in 2012.
While not a new event, Gray pointed to the Feb. 9 annual chamber meeting and awards dinner as a chance to reflect on the year and look ahead to the future.
“Hopefully 2012 will be a good year for us,” she said.