Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
“A tremendous but peaceful revolution is growing with the awakening of the citizens to the rights of self-government and opportunities of expanding commercialism. The wave is sweeping the nation and Terre Haute is to be included.” It is time to “get together, whole-hearted, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand … in a chamber of commerce.”
These words, while timeless in many ways, were spoken 100 years ago by the first president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, Spencer Ball, in his inaugural address to the group.
The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. It rose out of its predecessor organization, the Commercial Club of Terre Haute. Founded in 1899, the purpose of the Club was “to promote the manufacturing, commercial and general business interest of the City of Terre Haute, Vigo County and vicinity.” Due to issues with its formation and the methods used to elect its leadership, the Club was replaced after 14 years of existence with the Chamber movement.
Perhaps the thing most obviously missing from the Club was the one thing critical to the existence of today’s Chamber of Commerce: business advocacy. Serving as the voice of business to local, state and federal governmental bodies is just as important today as it was a century ago.
As we enter our 100th year, we do so with a solid mission:
“To preserve, protect and promote a business-friendly environment free of obstacles to growth and development.”
This mission is guided by a new set of values:
• We value inspired and visionary leadership that demonstrates the highest standards of professionalism, ethical behavior and fiscal responsibility. We believe that leadership is accountable to the members and to the community.
• We value strategic thinking that includes an awareness and appreciation of the history of our community. We are committed to sustainable initiatives that develop a vibrant business community and a qualified workforce.
• We value being a member-driven organization that is inclusive, open minded and non-partisan. We will promote diversity and be accessible to all levels of business.
n We value representing the needs of businesses by creating and supporting growth opportunities, education and training, providing regular communication, serving as advocates and providing opportunities for social interaction.
To clarify our role, the Chamber underwent an extensive strategic planning process over the past six months. As a result of this process, we have developed seven Strategic Initiatives to guide our actions:
I. Member Retention and Growth — We will provide educational programs and seminars including the Biz Series. We will promote business development opportunities and partner with SCORE, SBA and SBDC to serve the business community. We will regularly communicate with our members and conduct monthly events to continue to promote member networking and greater visibility for the Chamber.
II. Workforce Development — We wish to break the cycle of poverty by elevating the skills of people in the local community to enter the workforce. We wish to encourage students to complete high school, engage in K-12 coursework preparatory for industrial entry level positions, and to provide education and business role models to elementary and junior high students.
III. Advocating for a Business Friendly Environment — The Chamber will advocate at the local, state and federal levels on issues important to the business community. We will focus on both regulatory and legislative issues. We will promote a process of determining advocacy issues that is transparent to our members.
IV. Leadership Terre Haute — The Chamber will be a primary provider of future leadership by spearheading the Leadership Terre Haute Program. We will orchestrate programs to develop leaders for not only the Chamber but for all organizations within the community.
V. Community Plan — We will develop strategic partnerships on issues of major importance to our community. We will support and participate in Terre Haute Tomorrow.
VI. Revitalization of Terre Haute and Wabash Valley — We believe it important to promote a sense of pride in our community, not only amongst businesses but for all of the citizens of Terre Haute. We will maintain continuing support for the positive directions that have been initiated over the past decade in revitalizing our downtown area.
VII. Health and Wellness — The Chamber needs to continue to be active with Better Health Wabash Valley. We support the community health assessment and the collaboration with surrounding counties on issues of health. We believe it is essential to focus on issues of obesity, tobacco usage and creating a clearinghouse for best practices.
As we look toward our future, these strategic initiates provide us the blocks on which we will build our next 100 years. In this regular monthly column, I will be exploring our past, explaining our present and keeping an eye on our future. Be sure to check back and find out how the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce is fulfilling its mission and building a better community.
Ken Brengle, CCE, IOM, is president and CEO of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.