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Chamber chief explains organization’s offerings

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Taylor lists multitude of community interactions

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

TELL CITY – Cherie Taylor, executive director of the Perry County Chamber of Commerce, explained to the county council at their regular meeting April 25 what her organization offers.

“The chamber board wanted to give you an update on some of the activities that the chamber does, just so that you’re aware of what all we do in the community,” she began. “We do pride ourselves on being involved in as much as we can around the community.”

She said one of the chamber’s missions is promoting the community. That role is accomplished through a community calendar available on the chamber’s Web site and e-mail messages that go to about 300 people each week listing upcoming events. A ribbon cutting scheduled for the following day was an example of the listings, she noted.

The chamber also sends out 100 to 200 relocation packets each year, Taylor said. They go to real-estate agents to pass along to people moving into the community and are also available by calling or visiting her office.

“In that, we have the Discover magazine that the newspaper puts out, we have maps of the county, we put a phone book in there,” she explained. “We put in all kinds of information that somebody would need as a newcomer to our community.”

The chamber also sponsors candidate forums in partnership with the News ahead of elections. Also in the realm of politics, they “bring the legislators in whenever they’re in session to give us updates on how the session is going and their thoughts, as well as to answer questions,” Taylor said. A legislative breakfast the previous Saturday was attended by approximately 20 people, she added. One-on-one sessions with legislators are arranged in space provided by the chamber on an as-needed basis, she also said.

The chamber conducts job fairs each May, she continued.

“We try to coincide that with the end of the school year for the kids who may be graduating and want to go into a field that is here locally,” Taylor continued.

The chamber participates in main-street development, festivals and other events in each of the county’s communities, she said, with involvement in Tell City’s Schweizer Fest and arts association and Cannelton’s Heritage Festival.

The chamber also encourages businesses to participate in census counts when they roll around, she said, and offers for sale a history book about the county authored by Michael Rutherford.

“We do a four-color Perry County map that is distributed around the county,” Taylor went on. “We’re members of the Quality of Life Committee that does different events around the community and we look for things that would enhance the quality of life of Perry County. We helped with the Perry County health assessment that just finished up last year, and we were also the coordinators of the Hometown Competitiveness Program for Perry County, which has five pillars that we have currently under way.”

Information about them was available for council members, she added, “and if you see a topic that interests you, we invite anyone who would like to participate in those committees to do so.”

The efforts just getting under way were outlined in a data-gathering phase, Taylor explained, and fall into the categories entrepreneurship, youth, leadership, charitable legacy and rural families.

“We also do networking and training events,” she continued. “Our business-awards dinner (was) coming up next week. We also do the testimonial dinner during Schweizer Fest in August. We have our annual picnic (and a) golf outing in October.”

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration training session was offered this spring “for some of our companies who usually had to send people out of town,” she added, “and we also did a tax-credit seminar, which was free to our businesses.”

In the area of small-business promotion, Taylor said the chamber conducts a Witches Walk every year that provides an alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating.

“We have over 3,000 kids who come down to Main Street in Tell City,” she said. “It is a big deal for, really, the whole region. There are kids that come from everywhere.”

A yearly promotion has local businesses chip in money for a drawing that entices shoppers into local stores during the Christmas season.

“I did successfully write an application for Tell City to become part of the Indiana Main Street Organization, so (it) does have that designation and Cannelton currently is working on it. I’m working with them on that,” she said.

“We do business counseling at no charge for businesses that may want to come up with a way to expand or go into a new market, or for somebody who’s looking to start a new business but doesn’t really know where to start,” she continued. “We do have that capability through the Small Business Development Center in Evansville. “And they do use our office for counseling so individuals don’t have to travel all the way to Evansville.”

“We refer all of our member businesses first, so that is a benefit of membership in the chamber,” Taylor continued. “We have a Web site that has a searchable listing of all of our members.”

A gift-certificate program helps ensure money is spent in the community, and over the last four years, that amounted to nearly $175,000, she said. A page of advertising in the News each quarter lists goings-on with chamber members, “and we do have other advertisement opportunities (and) we make our membership lists available to other members as they may want to use that for marketing purposes.”

“We do have a diverse board,” Taylor went on. “We try to look at it to make sure we have all areas of the business community (represented) whenever we select a board. We have Jeff Rogers from ATTC Manufacturing; he serves as our president and he’s here. Marlow Smethurst with the (Tell City) Electric Department, who is here; Donna Harpenau from Southern Indiana Power, Dave Eldridge from the Perry County News, Randy Fischer from Old National, Patty James from Now and Then – she’s a local entrepreneur; Bruce Knox from Hoosier Hills Credit Union; Kim Oliva from Fifth Third Bank; Colleen Smith from PSC; Mary Snyder, (mayor) of Cannelton and Tina Ziegelgruber from German American.”

“We do have one open seat on the board right now, which is filled by the hospital,” Taylor added. “They had a change of personnel and the new person hasn’t come on board yet. We’ve also been hosting interns in our office. We had one who was there through the holidays and we currently have two. They’ve been a big help in putting the award dinner together. One of them is wanting to go into the hospitality field and the other one wants to do event management … one of them is in college and the other is a senior in high school.”

The chamber sends representatives to a number of boards, Taylor said, including that of the Lincoln Hills Development Corp., the Junior Achievement and emergency-management advisory councils and Smoke-Free Perry County. It’s also a member of several local community groups and “our reason for being here is just to see if there are any projects or anything you might come across that we can lend assistance to. We would be appreciative of hearing of those. So, whenever you’re out talking to community members, keep us in mind because we do want to participate in any way we can. Our board meetings are held the second Friday of the month at noon in the chamber office, so if you’re ever inclined, we would be glad to host you at those meetings.”

She thanked the officials for adopting the official county logo and said she has heard positive comments about it. She also invited the council members to join the chamber and said, “if there’s any other financial support you can give us to help continue all of these services that we do, we would appreciate that, as well.”