Chamber of Commerce Month
Fort Chamber Celebrates Chamber of Commerce Month
Wisconsin’s 267 local chambers of commerce vary from village to town to city, but they play an important role in the state. Whether they focus on advocacy, tourism, economic development, entrepreneurship, young professionals, workforce or organizing community events, local chambers should be recognized for their efforts.
That is why Gov. Tony Evers has proclaimed September to be Chamber of Commerce Month, once again, in Wisconsin, and why the Fort Atkinson Chamber staff wish to call attention to the resources they provide in the Fort Atkinson community.
“It’s difficult to put what we do into a single sentence,” Executive Director Carrie Chisholm stated on a day when she and staff were out helping members celebrate significant anniversaries. “Our mission is to ‘to promote and maintain a strong business community in the Fort Atkinson area,’ but there are lots of moving parts in that engine.”
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 375 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, next to funding quality healthcare solutions for employees. So the chamber partners with area educational institutions and local staffing agencies to showcase the opportunities for employment and advancement with programs like the middle school reality fair, guest speaking to the careers classes, 8th grade career tours, and running an annual career fair at either the high school, technical college, or University of Wisconsin – Whitewater campus. “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 hosts 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 fforts 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.”
Chamber work extends beyond the business community, as well. The welcome banners and holiday decorations around town were funded by the chamber, as were the directional signage and welcome signs at either end of the city. The potted flowers on Main Street are planted by chamber volunteers. Welcome guides and city maps are designed and printed with the aid of chamber members. The Fort Farmers Market is a program of the chamber of commerce. The chamber started events such as the Dairy Breakfast and Fort Fest which have now evolved into even bigger events run by other organizations. 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 the retail members.
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 city 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.