Home Business Chamber annual meeting highlights new website

Chamber annual meeting highlights new website


Board of Directors get sworn in
Board of Directors get sworn in

Having been around for 35 years, the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce has made great strides within the technological arena.

Joann and Brian McMahon
Joann and Brian McMahon

At the Chamber’s annual Dinner and Meeting at Whittaker Woods Golf Club Wednesday, Oct. 19, members got a sneak peek at the new Chamber website, which Chamber President Rich Kochanny said was their third one since 2010.

Before the preview, Chamber Executive Director Vicki Gudas shared a newspaper article from 1996, when the website was first launched. The article mentioned a video display of “how the Internet works” at Vickers Theatre, which Gudas said shows how far they’ve come in the technological world.

“We, like everybody else, is now wanting to get mobile ready and mobile friendly and to be on the cutting edge of technology,” she said, and said that the website was put together by a task force that included herself, Kochanny, Tom Hemingway and staff member Robin Quackenbush.

Elise Mauro, Rhonda Sobecki, David Bunte and Becky Thomas
Elise Mauro, Rhonda Sobecki, David Bunte and Becky Thomas

Calling it a “clean design” and “picture driven,” Kochanny said the website was “totally mobile,” saying that everything on it moved around according to the way the screen was set up on whatever device the viewer was using. Areas of interest will include a “featured business” section, where Kochanny said they will regularly highlight a new business. Chamber businesses will have their own business pages, which will feature a description of what the business offers as well as a photo gallery. Calling it a “mini website for every vendor,” Kochanny added that there will also be a map indicating where each business is located as well as their Facebook or Twitter link.

Under the Chamber central area, Kochanny said visitors will find all Chamber related information, such as its members, how to become a member, event registration and a members-only area, where members can customize their business webpage. As with the current website, there will be an Events Calendar, although Kochanny said the new one will allow visitors to view it in a “whole month mode” as well as an “agenda view,” which will separate the events going on by each day.

Debra Piper and Stacey LaRocco
Debra Piper and Stacey LaRocco

Overall, Kochanny said he can’t wait to see the results of the new website.

“It’s exciting to have a fresh new website that’s going to serve us well,” he said.

The Chamber’s many achievements from the past year were also highlighted at the meeting. One of their biggest achievements was their two-year marketing campaign in partnership with the Pokagon Fund, where $37,000 was spent on billboards, brochures, radio ads and a summer display at the Michigan Welcome Center that was designed by Chamber member Tom Hemingway.

Another achievement was their WBEZ campaign, which Gudas said has attracted a lot of new members to the Chamber. She thanked all of their sponsors and The Pokagon Fund for supporting that campaign, adding that they were considering establishing a permanent program with the radio station as a “membership benefit.”

Gudas thanked the Chamber’s marketing committee members for an “increased presence for Harbor Country on social media,” and added that they had recently hired Kimberlee Wendt to help with their marketing and membership, calling her a “great addition” to their team.

The Harbor Country Chamber Guide was another highlight of the evening. The Guide, which Gudas called a “labor of love,” is entirely produced in-house, adding to its uniqueness.

“It retains its originality year after year and we’re very proud of that and we’re very proud that it captures the Harbor Country experience so well,” she said.

Gudas said that they exceeded their revenue goals in 2016, and thanked the 116 advertisers that placed ads last year. All ads, she said, were placed in-house as well and they were “really, really proud of that.”

Gudas also drew attention to the new series of seminars produced by their program committee, the “Business Success Series,” which she said were created to be “more relevant” to small business owners in their area. Gudas reminded Chamber members of the Chamber’s Harbor Country Business Resource Center, which was created in 2013 in partnership with Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance to bring the programs and resources of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to Harbor Country. She thanked Margaret Adams of Cornerstone Alliance for contributing to bringing in 51 business owners to the small business department for consultations.

Newly appointed directors for 2016/2017 are: Sandra Thompson and Chuck Garasic, who Gudas said previously served as a director. Returning directors are: Rick Scanlan, Becky Gloe, Rich Kochanny, Cathi Rogers, Becky Thomas, Dick Sauerman, Tom Hemingway, Tim Adams and David Aacker. Officers are: Treasurer, Becky Gloe; Secretary, David Aacker; Rick Scanlan, Vice President and Rich Kochanny, President.

Two Chamber members who are leaving the Board were also recognized. Gudas said that Karen Tarpley was leaving after three years of serving on the Board but she hoped that she would serve as an ambassador for the Chamber in the future. Brian McMahon was also recognized for serving on the Board for six years as well as on several Chamber committees and received a plaque from the State of Michigan recognizing his contributions to Harbor Country from Senator John Proos, Dave Pagel and Fred Upton. Gudas also recognized Steve Throw, who served on the Board that year but had to resign last month.

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Francesca Sagala
Francesca Sagala has been a Staff Reporter/Proofreader/Photographer for the New Buffalo Times since March 2012. A graduate of Valparaiso University who majored in English, she currently resides in New Buffalo, Michigan.