Mineola Chamber of Commerce President Vic Savelli delivered what he described as a “state of the union” type address of the organization during a Membership Awards Meeting held Friday at Cowburners restaurant.
Savelli explained progress that the organization has made in the past year, as well as presented of some awards to businesses and individuals who had contributed to the chamber in various ways.
The chamber president said in 2016 the newly-elected directors and existing directors, “resolved that the chamber needed to implement sweeping changes and improvements to impact the growth and vitality of the chamber and address the evolving business climate in Mineola and Wood County.”
He said they began holding strategic and tactical planning sessions in addition to monthly board meetings. The board adopted new vision and mission statements and has been implementing its strategic plan for the past year and a half.
The mission, he said, is, “To help enable commerce and facilitate a thriving business environment for our membership and our community.” As far as the chamber’s vision, Savelli said, “We are a membership-based organization dedicated to promoting economic growth within our community through leadership, education and business advocacy.”
As far as finances the chamber had been “financially challenged,” and needed better reporting tools and safeguards, more effective revenue sources, events to grow and become profitable and more cash flow to make building repairs.
Savelli said the chamber’s treasurer, Ken Johnson, spent months “combing through files and working with a QuickBooks nightmare,” auditing and correcting books “riddled with inaccuracies” and he produced “clean, correct accounting through the end of 2017, eliminating errors and inaccuracies that had been carried forward in our system for years.”
At the beginning of last year Johnson launched a new version of QuickBooks and turned it over to their new treasurer, Terry Woods, a CPA and former treasurer for the Plano Chamber of Commerce.
All membership accounting moved to the chamber’s new website, where there is a complete membership package that enables chamber members to join and pay online. This year, all memberships were altered to renew at the same time on Jan. 1, and many members renewed online using PayPal accounts.
Savelli said “On the revenue side, In 2017 we had a record breaking turnout for our community banquet and added a silent auction to it that resulted in a highly profitable event that helped provide funding to get a new central heat and air unit installed on our second floor in hopes that rental income will eventually provide additional income. Special thanks to Susan Resnik for garnering the lion’s share of auction items.” He said they were able to repair the torn awnings on the chamber building.
While the weather during last fall’s Iron Horse festival didn’t cooperate, the festival brought the highest profit in recent history, generating a $7,000 profit.
“We added a taco booth where Maddi Regalado and her family prepared, cooked and served tacos with me,” Savelli said. “Jason Herring manned a beer and wine booth, Misty Hooks handled the horseshoe tournament, and Pastor Demethrius Boyd put together the tremendously popular Weenie Dog race. All of these additions resulted in increased revenues for your chamber,” Savelli said.
“With our finances in order, we put the focus back on why we exist, which is to increase commerce for our membership and community,” Savelli said.
With the goal of promoting members more effectively, members of the chamber met with Bill Woodall from Bluebonnet Publishing, the owner of the Wood County Monitor, who also prints the chamber directory.
“In 2017-2018 we introduced a new format directory with higher quality paper, and individuals and businesses were listed both alphabetically as well as by category. We increased the content significantly and increased distribution far beyond just the immediate Mineola area. While we had improved the product significantly, we put a 10% price cut in effect for all member advertising. Bluebonnet then went one step further and without the chamber even asking for it, made a large contribution of advertising space for use as we saw fit and sponsored our Iron Horse Festival in October.”
Additionally, he said, the board needed better feedback from members to serve them and over the past year board members have been meeting with members to gather feedback on what the chamber can do to help their businesses. “We take this feedback to heart and aspire to continually improve,” he said.
He said the new chamber website that went live in January 2017 solved many issues that the chamber was having with membership data, email and communications with members. The site has its own email server that allows the chamber to not only send letters, renewals, newsletters, and event registrations as well as indicating if emails were delivered, if they were opened and if action was taken on them. By delivering renewal notices with that system it eliminated more than 50 percent of the chamber’s postage expense.
Savelli said the chamber has increased its role in the community and in working with departments of the city and the Wood County Industrial Commission to help spawn increased communication and economic development.
In addition to a donation made to the chamber through the half-cent sales taxes by the city, the chamber also received funds from the Wood County Industrial Commission. Those were from Hotel Occupancy Tax proceeds. The contributions have enabled the chamber to add Saturday hours, add two smaller chamber and visitor signs to the building and soon larger signs on the building likely in a railroad station style, that will say Mineola Chamber of Commerce on Johnson Street and Visitors Center across the Broad Street side.
“The chamber is far from a perfect organization, but I assure you that the members of the board have worked diligently to improve and provide value to the member businesses and our community,” the chamber president concluded. “We love Mineola, and greatly appreciate your support of the chamber.”
The meeting also included Board Member Misty Hooks talking about two dedicated community servants who have died, one of whom was Bill Tipton. “Of course, we can never replace him but hopefully any of us can follow in his footsteps on what he started,” she said. She also recalled former chamber secretary, manager and family friend Shirley Chadwick and her over 25 years of service to the chamber as well as to the community. There were also comments from the four people seeking the three director positions on the board. They are Nancy Stelmach, Josh Householder, Donna Hangar and Nicole Merritt.
Savelli then handed out certificates of appreciation to volunteers Nancy Stelmach and Ken Johnson, media partner the Wood County Monitor, the Wood County Industrial Commission, the city of Mineola, Rodney Watkins and Watkins Insurance and Don Roberts Title.
Savelli also noted that the Mineola Chamber of Commerce, “In its current form, was started” 70 years ago. He said there were two original members there represented. The first was Mineola Community Bank, represented by Jim Herlocker. And Trinidad Benham, Savelli said, became the first member of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce in January 70 years ago. That business’ award was accepted by employee Donna Conley.