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January 30, 2014

Chamber converts to Fulton Co. organization

Rochester to get Main Street program.

ROCHESTER — The city’s chamber of commerce announced a new mission and a revamped moniker at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The nonprofit organization formerly known as the Rochester and Lake Manitou Chamber of Commerce will now be called the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce.

One of the main changes that will take place in the next year is the development of a certified Main Street program in Rochester.

Abby Warpenburg, chamber board president, said downtown business activity and visual appeal is vital for economic development efforts as potential new businesses look at the area.

Having a formal Main Street program also qualifies the community for state grants.

Another recent change was the addition of Diane Spore as chamber executive director. Spore is the first full-time chamber director in more than 25 years.

The decision to reassess the chamber began in May 2013 when consultant Amy Beechy helped lead the process of surveying members and getting their input.

Survey results showed that members wanted to be recognized more as well as see an increase in opportunities for networking, education and better community events.

Chamber representatives reached out to neighboring chambers in Logansport, Peru and Wabash to see what was working as well as consulting the state Chamber Executives Association.

The result? A decision to focus on reorganization and tweak the chamber’s image. Changing the name of the chamber was meant to make the organization more inclusive of outlying communities, Warpenburg said.

“If we’re really here to support and promote our members, there should be the opportunities for them to share and network together countywide,” Warpenburg said.

The mission statement has changed and mentions fostering economic development and building community strength within Fulton County through partnerships and engagement with members.

A concern with changing the name to reflect its identity as a countywide organization was the fact Akron has their own chamber, but after meeting with the Akron chamber it was clear they were supportive, Warpenburg said.

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