Friday, August 6, 2010

Owensboro Chamber Named National Chamber of the Year

The Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce was honored Thursday night as the 2010 national chamber of the year in its category during the awards ceremony at the national conference of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives in Milwaukee, Wis.

The chamber bested the other finalist, the Fargo Moorhead North Dakota chamber, in the category of chambers with total revenues of $450,001 to $900,000.

"We're really excited," chamber President Jody Wassmer said from Milwaukee.

Wassmer and the rest of the chamber staff are attending the conference that wraps up today.

About 600 people attended the awards ceremony.

To get to the finalist stage, the chamber staff submitted an application that highlighted either how the organization had excelled during the year or its specific programs or initiatives that went above and beyond expectations.

The applications were reviewed and scored by chamber executives and past national winners.

In May, the two chambers with the greatest number of points advanced as finalists in four revenue categories.

"I don't know exactly what gave us the edge to win, but I have an idea," Wassmer said.

The chamber chose to feature results of two initiatives -- C-LINK, the Chamber Leadership Initiative for Northwestern Kentucky, and Owensboro Buys It!.

On Wednesday, Wassmer and operations manager Ashley Bradshaw had to sit in front of a panel of judges and answer 10 questions in 30 minutes.

"We didn't know the questions in advance, but they were mainly related to chamber operations and the selected initiatives," Wassmer said. "I think we must have done well on that."

The rest of the staff -- Missy Gant, membership manager; Mary Higginbotham, membership services manager; and Susan High, accounting manager -- also attended the conference.

Wassmer was quick to give credit to Owensboro businesses and volunteers who "make the chamber work."

C-LINK, made up of 12 regional chambers, led a charge for Interstate 69 in western Kentucky, and that project has seen significant progress over the past two years.

Owensboro Buys It! features tools and a venue for small businesses to get their messages out to large, local employers. It includes training for creating their messages and sessions in which they get face-to-face time with decision makers at major companies.

The award represents "bold advocacy and member service programs the chamber has initiated in recent years," Suzanne Northern Blazar, the chamber's board chairwoman, said in a news release.

Wassmer said winning the national chamber of the year award by 2012 was part of a strategic plan the board developed in early 2008.