Fort Atkinson Chamber Celebrates Chamber of Commerce Month
On the tail of its new traveling billboard reveal, the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to celebrate Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Month in September. The chamber is spending the entire month bringing attention to the services provided to members and the community.
The semi wrap is one of many ways the Fort Chamber raises awareness of what the community has to offer. With a comprehensive marketing plan that includes web, t.v., radio, print, and social media promotions, as well as special events such as Rhythm Remix, the Holiday Parade, and Fort Farmers Market, the chamber works to draw visitors as well as potential businesses and workers to the area.
“It’s difficult to put what we do into a single sentence,” Executive Director Carrie Chisholm stated. “Our mission is ‘to promote and maintain a strong business community in the Fort Atkinson area,’ but there are lots of moving parts in that engine.”
For example, the chamber sells over $200,000 in chamber gift certificates annually. This money is then returned to local retailers. The holiday decorations and welcome banners at the entry points to the city are the chamber’s responsibility, as are the relocation guides and tourism brochures which are distributed to Wisconsin Welcome Centers throughout the state. And in partnership with three local financial institutions, the chamber offers a revitalization loan for businesses looking to upgrade the exterior of their buildings.
The Fort Chamber’s primary focus is three-fold: Membership development, workforce development, and economic development. “Our members are what make our chamber so successful,” Chisholm says. “Collectively, they comprise 350 organizations, providing thousands of jobs and offering a variety of products and services both locally and internationally.” The chamber notes that 56 of its members are non-profits that provide valuable services like literacy training, educational scholarships, and community events.
Finding and retaining talent is the greatest challenge of the local business community, Chisholm says. The chamber partners with area educational institutions and local staffing agencies to showcase the opportunities for employment and advancement with annual career fairs, and guest speaking to the careers classes. The entire month of October is dedicated to raising awareness of the jobs available at local manufacturers, and The Coolest Thing Made in Fort Atkinson is an award presented to both a large and small business. “We help raise the profile of our area employers. People live here their entire lives and don’t know what goes on inside the buildings they pass every day,” Chisholm notes. “We’re trying to change that.” The chamber also hosts Project LEAD, an annual leadership training program which provides tours of all the largest companies and helps participants understand the inner workings of the city and business community.
Economic development efforts include attracting new businesses and retaining those who have helped build Fort Atkinson to what it is today. Recruiting efforts extend beyond the obvious (filling the voids left by ShopKo and Kmart), to empty spaces along Janesville and Madison Avenue, as well as downtown and the south business park. “We work with the city, the schools, the county, and state to pull together resources to assist the business community. But we can’t do it alone. We have a motto: ‘If you know someone, bring them to Fort Atkinson!’ We all need to be promoting our community as the best place to live, work, and play.”
The chamber office also serves as a visitor center for cities throughout the state, and houses the community foundation office, as well. The chamber’s calendar of events provides a complete listing of activities in the community, as well as job postings from area employers and hot deals offered by area retailers.
Chamber of Commerce Month serves as an annual way to celebrate the work of local chambers of commerce around the state. Chisholm feels grateful for the community’s support of the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber. “We love promoting this area and all it has to offer,” she says. “We genuinely love where we live, so it isn’t too difficult to tell everyone else how great it is!”
The Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce is open Monday through Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm, at 244 North Main Street. Visit www.fortchamber.com to explore the annual calendar of events or to locate a chamber member business.