BRIDGMAN — The Greater Bridgman Area Chamber and Growth Alliance (CGA) held its annual meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, at Pebblewood Country Club.

CGA Treasurer Bob Clark called it a transitional year as the 150-member organization continues an affiliation with the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce that began midway through 2018.

In May of 2018, the CGA was given notice that Executive Director Calli Berg had accepted a position in her home state of Wisconsin. At that time, Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce offered assistance to the CGA with administrative and member services. In the months that followed, the CGA board unanimously decided to formally affiliate with Cornerstone. The partnership creates a strong regional based chamber, offers additional member benefits through Cornerstone Chamber, and exposes the Greater Bridgman area to a larger audience in the community.

Clark said the board decided to partner with an organization that could handle the duties Berg had performed.

“Calli Berg was awesome … she did a great job in our communities and we’ve got a lot of momentum in Bridgman and Lake Township and the surrounding areas and great things happening — the businesses and storefronts getting filled and the Monogram Center on the corner,” he said.

Clark said Cornerstone Events & Marketing Director Sarah Spoonholtz stepped right in after Berg had left and helped out by answering calls and emails and helping out with local events such as ribbon-cuttings.

“It’s been a lifesaver for us … I know all the businesses are going to enjoy having her here as the local representative.” he said.

Spoonholtz, who grew up in Eau Claire, said she has a lot of good memories from the Bridgman area.

Spoonholtz said she, Cornerstone Chamber  President Chris Heugel and Cornerstone Director of Member Services Susan D. Solon, coordinated events such as ribbon-cuttings and invited CGA board members to Cornerstone’s Fall Trade Fair.

She also said marketing efforts for the CGA are showing positive results.

“You’ve reached over 144,000 people through that Facebook page in the last year.”

Spoonholtz said one of her goals going forward is for the idea of a divide between the north and south portions of Berrien County to go away.

New CGA Board President Brett Boyd said the Alliance with Cornerstone has created a regional value and benefit for CGA members and the communities the organization serves (Bridgman and Lake Charter Township).

Boyd then introduced Heugel, and said he is looking forward to “lots of good things to come.”

“With this affiliation agreement we certainly created more of a regional chamber. We believe that a chamber is only as strong as the number of members that it has, and now we have created a chamber that has well over 800 members,” Heugel said.

Outgoing CGA Board President Georgia Gipson was thanked for her service during the meeting.

The following 2019 Bridgman CGA Board officers were installed: President Brett Boyd; Vice President Gretchen Evans; Treasurer Bob Clark; and Secretary Shane Peters.

Other board members include Pat Heyn, Charlie Stein, Georgia Gipson, Tim Kading, Suzy Barnes, Jim Stine, Cheri Heyward and Beth McNeil.

Clark said the Treasurer’s Report signals a transitional year. Although the CGA hasn’t had a lot of luck in recent years with festivals due unfortunate weather events, he said the 2018 Maker’s Trail event at Weko Beach did well, but a wine festival in the fall was cancelled.

The bottom line is the organization’s register balance went from $63,099 to $41,025.

Clark urged everyone to hope for great weather for the 2019 Maker’s Trail (scheduled for June 8 at Weko Beach).

The program for the Jan. 24 Annual Meeting included the following information:

• The CGA has recently welcomed six new members — Teri Sue Freehling, The Clotheshorse, Sand Pirate Art Gallery, Sensational Spas, Nathan Thomas Orthodontics, Monogram Inn & Suites.

Projects, programs, people and places in 2018 included: The opening of a new AirBNB style hotel to the downtown Bridgman area, courtesy of Marty Mason and the Monogram Inn & Suites. The Monogram Centre is home to multiple current and new businesses including Fusion Gallery, Hummingbird Fashions, The Early Bird Eatery, The Clotheshorse, Rochefort’s the New Generation, Klippers Family Salon, and Knots Therapeutic Massage.

• The CGA continues to seek a prospect for an additional hotel in the area. Contacts have been made and continue to be made with developers in this industry. With the assets of our area and increasing visitors and interest in our area, we are hopeful this important part of our community will come to fruition soon. Potential sites have been defined and are being actively marketed.

• The CGA, through assistance with the Cornerstone Chamber, facilitated several events for membership or open to the public including the Annual Meeting, JLN Studio Ribbon Cutting, Visitors Guid Kickoff Party, The Sand Pirate Public Art Ribbon Cutting, Monogram Inn & Suites Open House, Makers Trail Festival, Lake Township Disc Golf Ribbon Cutting, Monogram Centre Ribbon Cutting, Fall Trade Fair, Small Town Grounds Ribbon Cutting, and Holiday Village.

• The CGA received “exciting news” this past year that the Berrien County Parks Department is proposing a large linear park connecting the County Park system. The linear park will be specifically for non-motorized trail. The first phase of the park project would be from Bridgman to Browntown Road, allowing safe access for thousands of Warren Dunes State Park visitors to our communities. The proposal is to then have the trail continue south to New Buffalo. A future meeting regarding trails is the Berrien County Non-Motorized Summit being held at Andrews University Howard Performing Arts Center on February 6 from 7 to 9 p.m.

• The CGA awarded two $500 scholarships to deserving students in 2018. In an effort to continue support to our community with these types of programs, the CGA also donated to the Queens Breakfast held early each year.

• The CGA maintains a site database with details on building and land sites that are for sale or lease. This database is used to respond to prospects and entire new development in the greater Bridgman area. Several buildings and land sites experienced changes in ownership and redevelopment that provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs to find desirable high-traffic locations (downtown), more industrial sites to present prospects (manufacturing), and more greenfields and brownfields suitable for hotel development. The greater Bridgman area continued to enjoy a surge in interest in 2018 and we fielded many entrepreneurial/small business-related prospects of assorted interests. The CGA also received many opportunities through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to submit proposals for confidential manufacturing projects.

• The CGA actively works with area businesses in many capacities, from small business development to partnering on projects or events, with the goal of mitigating challenges that affect business health and providing tools to help companies grow.

• The CGA continues to be one of the few organizations/municipalities in Berrien County to hold an annual transportation contract with Berrien Bus. This year, we supported the City of Bridgman’s third season of offering a summer Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends, running a shuttle between Warren Dunes, Weko Beach, and several stops throughout the greater Bridgman area.

• Visitors Guide - 10,000 copies were printed in 2018 and were distributed through our visitor centers, placed with advertisers, area businesses, other chambers and business associations, and shared through Warren Dunes, the New Buffalo Welcome Center, and the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council and their member businesses.

• The CGA participates on regional teams on many programs and initiatives and partners for collaboration, project management, and information and resource sharing including American Electric Power/Indiana Michigan Power, Berrien County Community Development, Blossomtime Queen’s Breakfast at Weko Beach, Bridgman Public Library Strategic Planning, Chamber Directors of Berrien County, City of Bridgman Master Planning/Zoning Rewrite Processes, Community Economic Development Strategies Committee, Cornerstone Alliance, Cornerstone Chamber Chief Elected Officials Council, Cornerstone Chamber Networking Group, Corridor Improvement Authority, City of Bridgman, Economic Development Corporation of Berrien County, Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce, Kinexus/Michigan Works, Landbank Authority of Berrien County, Michigan Economic Developers Association, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen Open House, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Real Estate Developer Community Tour, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Southwest Michigan Tourist Council, Strategic Leadership Council - Best Practices Committee, and TwinCats - Berrien County Transportation Planning.

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