BARODA — Members of the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce looked back at a successful year and heard about plans for a bright 2020 during the Oct. 24 annual dinner held in a spacious event tent in the vineyards at Tabor Hill Winery.

“It is astounding how many goals we accomplished in the last year,” said Chamber Member Services Director Kimberly Wendt. “If you look at the Annual Report on your table under highlights, you will see some of the milestones we achieved.”

These included: Went through a Professional financial audit that concluded the Chamber fiscal position is strong.

The “Undiscovered Season” Fall & winter promotion continues to be a compelling vehicle to attract year-round visitors with 43,122 social interactions and over 10,000 Google map views.

The Inaugural Spring Break Out Party at Journeyman Distillery transformed the traditional Chamber Guide unveiling into a successful public event bringing out 291 attendees.

Popular mixers consistently reached maximum attendance, providing the best Member networking opportunities in the area.

The new Membership Committee is developing creative programs to better interface with Members and build on the diversity of the constituency (“We really want to open it up to all types of industries.”).

The Marketing Committee has set forth a new comprehensive marketing plan spanning print, digital and video platforms integrated with a powerful new website telling the important roles our Members play in all that is Harbor Country.

Wendt thanked Annual Meeting sponsors Equilibrium Fitness; Fifth Third Bank; Four Winds Casino; Honor Credit Union; and Horizon Bank along with visual provider Grand Home Automation.

“I also want to thank my Office Manager extraordinaire Emily Hojara … my co-pilot. With a staff of only two she seems to be able to pick up wherever I lack … She handles each call and visitor will full knowledge of what our near 500 members offer – which is a true gift.”

She said moving forward into the next year, the Chamber has set in place forward-thinking initiatives that will continue to build on our success and help us to evolve onto the organization’s next level of technology and member benefits.

Chamber Treasurer Danette Narregan then delivered a financial report, aging the latest audit shows the organization to be “in great financial shape.”

“During the 2017-2018 fiscal year we established a fully funded Operating Fund Reserve. This gives us the ability and the security to know that no matter what may happen we have a full year of minimal operating costs in our budget to keep us going.”

She said the bulk of Chamber income is from dues and Guide sales.

For the first time in the 2019-20 budget the Chamber was able to allocate  $10,000 to a marketing budget and also have the funds to purchase the ChamberMaster program to drive the website.

“Our goal is to keep investing money yearly in marketing and other projects to bring people to Harbor Country and thereby to your businesses,” Narregan said.

“So exactly what is ChamberMaster?” Wendt asked.

“It is a member management software with a suite of powerful tools designed to help run day-to-day operations more efficiently so we can focus on you!”

She said ChamberMaster centralizes all that we do into one single portal for the member database, events registration, email blast communications, the Quickbooks accounting system and a new contemporary mobile-friendly website.

“It’s sleek, it’s modern,” Wendt said while displaying an example of the format selected for the site.

She said the new ChamberMaster system should be up and running in early 2020, adding that educational Lunch and Learn sessions on it will be held.

Members will have their own hub allowing them to: customize their web page; view  web page stats; directly post job listings, “hot deals” and special events; register for events and view event reservations; read Chamber newsletters; network with other members; access account billing and pay bills on-line; update contact information only

one time for all programs.

Officers and directors of the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors were installed for 2019-2020 during the Annual Dinner.

Newly appointed directors are Steven Throw (co-owner of Bantam Brook Farm) and Bill Reynolds (owner New Buffalo Bill’s).

Returning directors are Jen Thompson (Chikaming Open Lands); Maggie Martin (MAK Salon); Danette Narregan (Chicago Title Company); Dick Sauerman (New Buffalo Savings Bank); Allie Mojsiejenko (Four Winds Casino); Kurt Hauseman (New Buffalo Inn & Spa); and John Natsis (Beachtown Vacation Rentals).

The elected officers for 2020 are: President Jen Thompson (who will oversee the duties and responsibilities of the Board of Directors and work with the President/CEO to represent the best interests of members and meet the goals of the organization); Vice President Maggie Martin (who will carry out duties assigned by the President and perform the duties of the President in her absence) and Treasurer Danette Narregan (who will oversee the financial operations of the Chamber).

Departing Board members Cathi Rogers and Chuck Garasic were recognized as well.

After taking the gavel from Rogers, new Chamber Board President Jen Thompson said “I’m so excited about the direction we’re going in this Chamber. We are implementing new ideas and I hope that you’re excited too. I really think you’re going to find in the next year or two that there’s going to be a lot of value added in your membership.”

She thanked outgoing President Cathi Rogers (a 6-year member who served as president the last 2) and longtime board member Chuck Garasic (a 25-year veteran who is still set to be involved with the Chamber Guide) for their service.

Thompson said Wendt and Hojara have been working “so, so hard” to get all of the Chamber’s data into the new website and get it up and running.

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