I've heard this question a lot in the few months since I've been appointed to this position. This tells me I have some work to do to educate our community about the many roles of the Osage Chamber. Each Chamber of Commerce for each community is a little different - but I'll lay out exactly what the Osage Chamber does.
First, the Osage Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit entity created to advocate for those who live and work in Osage. This is basically our mission statement (see sidebar on this page). How do we advocate? We are the organization that legislative bodies refer to in terms of commerce and tourism. Earlier this week, Senator Joni Ernst sat down with our executive board members, county economic development and other leaders in our community to talk about major issues we are facing regarding commerce and development in Mitchell County. Two big topics of conversation were labor force and housing - both which plague nearly every industry in our community.
We also have people looking to relocate and visit here all the time. How do I know? They call us - they email us - because they know that the Chamber of Commerce is the place that will know what's going on and which business can help fill their needs. A lot of the people requesting information live out of state and have never been here before.
People are looking for jobs in our community and products that our businesses can offer. A benefit of joining the chamber is your business will always be referred to these individuals looking for help. We can also help businesses find the workers to fill those positions!
Another component to my job is to act as our community's tourism representative. We're members of Central Iowa Tourism, attend the conference and attend regional meetings. We send out relocation information packets that include (again) referrals to our members' businesses. A lot of us have been in Osage our whole lives, but imagine if you were coming here for the first time: What's the best place to get a cup of coffee? Where can I work out? Where can I get my oil changed? Dry cleaning? Gift shop? Catch a show? Hike a trail? These are all very important amenities that Osage is proud to offer! Also, all inquiries are logged so we know where our visitors are coming from and what times of year. We also maintain Osage's Welcome Center, located in the lower level of City Hall. This is a go-to for all area attractions and businesses.
These are all very different components to a large role a Chamber plays in the community. A lot of people would say we just do advertising. While that's partially true, I think it's important to talk about the kinds of advertising we do. We work with businesses to target specific audiences for different events. We also design & place generic advertising for Osage throughout the year to get visitors here. These primarily showcase our parks, recreation, things to do and shopping. We also list events and update Osage attractions on TravelIowa.com, Iowa's largest and most-visited travel website. We also produce the print advertising that is distributed to welcome centers across Iowa. Advertising costs are expensive, but when you are a member of the Chamber, you're contributing to us to get people to come to Osage.
Can you imagine what would happen if all ad placement for Osage across the state of Iowa just disappeared? If there was no one there to wave the flag saying "Come to Osage!"? I don't want to think about that - because I think the results would be detrimental to our entire business community.
We could also talk a little bit about the community events the Chamber takes pride in organizing. Friday Nights Out, Holiday events, 4th of July parade, etc... Many of those events do not benefit the Chamber directly at all - but they are events that many would consider important to our community.
If we rely solely on chance that people will stumble upon our great little community, many businesses and industries will simply not survive. We need to give them reasons to come! So please, if you hear someone in the community that says "All the Chamber does is offer advertising" or "I don't see the value" - maybe this will help give a little bit more insight into what it is we do. Our Board of Directors and I are all so proud to serve in our roles for the Osage Chamber of Commerce because we really do believe in our mission.