So here we are in the final week of 2015. This time last year I was on vacation between jobs, between careers in fact. I was excited because I had been given the fantastic opportunity to work with a great board of directors to lead this chamber into the future. I'll be honest, I was also terrified. I left a career I had gotten quite good at and followed my passion for community and economic development. I was not worried that I couldn't do the job, but it was a new career and I had received a clear message that the goals for my first year were quite lofty. The board had some things they wanted done and it was my job to make sure they happened. A challenge like this can be hindered by a million unforeseen problems. This year, due to no fault of our own, could have fallen short of success....But it didn't.
It didn't because the mentorship I received from Peter Thompson was fantastic. He took time to explain how things worked and to listen as I asked very fundamental questions.
It didn't because the guidance and support I received from the Board of Directors was incredible: specifically two term Chair, Kim Vandermeulen. I challenged them to look at each event with new eyes. I challenged them to believe in the process and to believe in the possibilities. They rose to the challenge.
It didn't because our volunteers on the building committee, Chris Paszyc of CBRE, the staff of KSB, the staff of Doyle and Nelson and most importantly, the crew at Ganneston Construction were on the ball throughout the purchase and renovation of our new building. No process is without issues, and we had a few, but we prevailed. Together we have made a huge statement about the future of our chamber and our region.
It didn't because you, the community and the membership, welcomed me with open arms. From the awards dinner, my very first event, you were gracious and kind. Throughout the year, many of you welcomed me into your businesses and organizations for a tour and showed me amazing things. I learned how movies are projected, how Whoopie Pies are made, how an ice rink is kept cold and how to believe in the future of a rundown theater. You turned out in large numbers for a Business Expo of unsurpassed quality and you have shown great enthusiasm for the redesigned Kenny Awards in January.
It didn't, most importantly, because I have had the pleasure to work with the best chamber staff on the planet. Working with Patty Hewett, Deb Camporiale, Lynne Burney, Cynthia Ross, Catharine Preyer and Katie Doherty has been phenomenal. Despite the new faces and changing roles, this team has accomplished some incredible things this year and kept me on the right track numerous times. I am very excited to see what we can do next!
I spent some time creating this blog and really appreciating the progress we have made this year. At first, as I told our new Board Chair Eric Jermyn, I was concerned that there was no way we could top it next year. After further reflection, I think I will be wrong on that front. Your Chamber has some fantastic initiatives for the coming year and I would love to take a minute to share these with you.
- The Kenney Awards - As you know, we will host the Kenney Awards on January 22nd with a new format and lavish gala event celebrating the success of businesses and individuals in the Kennebec Valley.
- New Member Orientation - Starting in February, Cynthia and the Membership Committee will be holding periodic "New Member Orientation" sessions. This will provide new members, and current members, a chance to learn about the benefits of membership and how to make the most of their investment.
- Small Business Resource Team - This group of dedicated mentors will be offering free services to small businesses in the region. It is our goal to help guide and support all of our small businesses in order to help them succeed. This will likely include a periodic morning coffee get together for small business owners to allow them to network at a time that is more convenient for them.
- Whatever Kids day in Capitol Park - We are excited to announce that we will be adding a live concert to our slate of events on June 25th. Katie will work with Johnson Hall to bring some wonderful talent to Augusta and enhance the event.
- Kennebec Valley Arts Summit - We continue to work with the leaders of the Arts community throughout the Kennebec Valley and have some great ideas on how to promote the fantastic culture that exists here. Not only in our backyard, but also to advertise outside of our region in an effort to bring visitors to the Kennebec Valley.
- Promotion - We are very excited to begin a campaign of promotion of the Kennebec Valley through social media and other outlets. Cynthia has been working with a variety of leaders in the region to create a short promotional video that we will use to highlight the benefits of living and working in the Kennebec Valley. This video will be debuted at the Kenney Awards, so get your ticket today!
All in all, the message for this blog is "THANK YOU." The board, the membership and the staff have made this a VERY good year for your Chamber. We feel like the sky is the limit, but we need your help. Please join us in the great activities we have planned and get involved behind the scenes. If you do not yet sponsor an event, please call me and I will help you find a way to contribute, no matter how small. Together we can achieve great things and prove that Success Starts Here!