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Friday, March 30, 2012

Chamber Day 2012 - Recap of What I Learned

I had the privilege of participating as a volunteer in our local Chamber Day on Thursday, March 29, 2012. For those who are unaware, this is a day that is set aside to visit local businesses and find out what their challenges are and thank them for choosing our community to have their business in. It was a full day event, broken into 2 halves and ending with the monthly Chamber After Hours event at Allen Honda.

I learned quite a bit from the local businesses we visited. I really enjoyed being a volunteer and will do my best to participate each year. I learned a lot of things I was unaware of about the businesses I drive by every day. It was a great experience that I would urge everyone to try to participate in at least once.

We were broken up into teams with one person who had been a volunteer before, one who had not and either a police officer or someone from the fire department. We each received a packet of invitations to the After Hours event and decals for the businesses if they needed one as well as a list of current Chamber members. We also had paper surveys to ask some questions about how the business was doing or we could submit the survey on our smart phone or tablet. We were encouraged to take pictures to upload and post to the Chamber wall on facebook as well as Twitter. I was lucky enough to be paired up with a police officer and got to ride in an unmarked police car. We were assigned the Southwest Parkway area in College Station.

We started with Allen Honda, where we would be ending up for the After Hours event. It turns out their sales are increasing, they expect to keep the number of employees stable and they think the economy here locally will increase with the SEC move. Not surprising, their greatest challenge is government regulation. However the reason for that did surprise me. For example, their sign was damaged in a recent storm. When they went to get replacement parts for it, the company that they get the parts from had moved out of the US into Canada due to government regulation here hindering their business. In addition, the tsunami in Japan has also affected production of the parts to make the cars which slowed production of cars until recently.

Brenham National Bank has free Blue Bell ice cream for their customers! What an awesome perk besides free checking and other programs that they have. Go visit the branch closest to you and let the friendly personnel help you with your banking needs!

There are 2 hotels next to the bank. Country Inn and Suites and Holiday Inn. We learned that they have to comply with ADA rules and have a lift installed in their pools. Not a cheap endeavor at all and also something that wouldn’t readily come to mind as a challenge they would be facing.

We visited McCord Engineering and invited them to the After Hours event. Then we went into the United Way and learned that giving is significantly reduced last year versus prior years. This building houses our 211 phone system and they get 50,000 plus calls every year to answer all kinds of questions for our community. The Brazos Valley Symphony is also in the same building with the United Way. Their ticket sales are also down this year versus last year. They have their annual fundraiser event coming up in May with their Derby Day 2012, complete with a Hat contest and Mint Juleps. Live and silent auctions will also be part of this event. For more information about what is sure to be a fun event, please visit their website here.

We visited a new Nail Spa Salon and Casa Rodriguez Express on Southwest Parkway. Casa Rodriguez was going to be catering the After Hours event so we thanked them for helping with that and moved on to First Victoria National Bank. Their lobby was brightly decorated with strawberries for a fundraiser they are in the process of doing.

We had run out of time and had to get back to our cars to meet at Outback Steakhouse for lunch which was provided by Newks. Lunch was delicious and we received a lot of feedback on the surveys that had been submitted so far. Then the afternoon volunteers went back out to finish up the day.

While it was organized chaos, the event went smoothly. The surveys were easy to do and enter the info and everyone we talked to was very pleasant and more than willing to take a few minutes to let us ask them some questions. Initial information looks like most of the businesses are seeing sales pick up and most are going to keep the same employee base and some even intend to add some employees. This is really good news for our local economy.

I was really impressed with how many people volunteered and with how friendly everyone was. Our Chamber of Commerce really strives to make a difference and go the extra mile for our local businesses in our community. They have recently partnered with Brazos County as well which should lead to even better things for us locally. If you own a business here and have not attended a Chamber event, I urge you to check out their website and pick one or more events to attend. They have ribbon cuttings at new businesses several times a week, Chamber After Hours at least once a month and have many opportunities available to get involved that are free to attend. It is a great investment in your community to become part of the Chamber which will repay you in countless ways. Come see for yourself what a great dedicated resource our local business has available!

Please like the Chamber of Commerce facebook page here to see all the pictures that were taken and information posted about our visits to over 600 local businesses. On Twitter you can follow the tweets for the day by using #BCSChamberDay. You can also follow them every day @BCSChamber. I look forward to meeting you at the next Chamber After Hours!

Kathie Hitt