2022 State of the Chamber address

Note: President and CEO Mike Throne delivered the 2022 State of the Chamber address as part of the 2022 State of the Community event on April 29, 2022. For all the presentations, check out the full livestreamed video by clicking here

I’m not sure I’d recommend taking over the local Chamber CEO job right before a pandemic hit, but most of the unpleasantries of COVID are outside of our grasp and we can start focusing on helping our businesses thrive, rather than merely survive.

Despite the lingering impact of the pandemic, our Chamber is thriving. Our membership growth is up 7% since 2019 – even with the rough 2020 factored into the figures. We are now at 773 members, up from 725 in my first year as the CEO.

New membership was up 19 percent in 2021 as Bobbi Kellough signed 93 new members – a new record high for her work at the Chamber – and we’ve added 32 to date in 2022. If that pace continues, she’ll break that record. Even in the COVID year, she signed 78 new members. She’s relentless in the pursuit of matching our great services to business needs.

We’re not just signing new members; our retention is also strong. 91 percent of 2020’s new members (78) were retained in 2021, up from 84% a year earlier.

Obviously, the growth in membership has also boosted our revenues. Since 2019, our revenue has ballooned to more than $400,000, an increase of 18%. When we factor out the $675,000 in CARES Act money we administered on behalf of local businesses, the Chamber had a revenue dip in 2020 – as did everyone – but we rebounded nicely last year. We’ve also been under budget on expenses each year in that time.

Those are the hard numbers that point to our growth, and they are enjoyable to read, but beyond that, we’ve been meeting the needs of our businesses. Last year, we changed the focus of our traditional membership guide to a Relocation and Community Guide, which has been well-received in the community. It’s a blend of community pride, facts and figures, and details about the pulse of our community that helps our businesses to hire and retain key employees. Special thanks to Metropolis Design Studio for their hard work in producing the guide. We have copies available if you would like some for your business or to use in your hiring process.

2022 has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of offerings we provide to help build businesses. Thrive Chillicothe, our business seminar series, is in full swing. Our sessions on money saving opportunities, social media marketing and ways to grow your business, find grant opportunities, and more will help to sustain small business. Wendi Bennett, our small business resource navigator, is spearheading this effort for us and doing a tremendous job. We’re also eagerly anticipating a full return to in-person Ross County Safety Council meetings later this year.

I’d also like to thank our friends in the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance. SOCA helps the local Chamber provide money saving benefits to its members, including lower cost health benefits and 401K programs and the Chamber Energy Program, which can save you hundreds of dollars on natural gas and electric rates. Lower costs will help us navigate the current supply chain and workforce issues that have plagued many businesses as the pandemic subsides. Sedgwick, our workers compensation partner, also saved local Chamber members nearly $260,000 last year. Ask any of us about how we can help you save money.

We’re also out and about more. Our Business After Business events are back, our Annual Meeting will be May 10, and our Golf Outing is coming in July. But I saved my favorite new thing for last. Earlier this month, we started “Five Questions with …” a new video series from the Chamber which puts us out into the businesses to educate the community about our amazing members. Each Tuesday, we post a video on our Facebook page and YouTube channels. They are a lot of fun, and the feedback has been great. Thanks again to Aaron Anderson and DNA Productions for their work on the videos.

Finally, our role at the Chamber is to convene and connect. It’s a role we take very seriously. We believe in convening with our partners and helping them connect with other businesses to serve our community.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.