January 30, 2014

Chamber converts to Fulton Co. organization

Rochester to get Main Street program.

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — 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.

Kim Martin, president of the Akron Chamber of Commerce, said the Akron Chamber is looking forward to the new opportunities for business expansion and exposure.

The changes were made available through the addition of sponsorship levels, which allowed the chamber to increase the annual operating budget by $19,000 in 2013. Sponsorship levels are silver, gold and platinum, with platinum sponsors committing to give $5,000 each year for the next three years.

Former chamber president Brian Richter said he is looking forward to seeing the results of what the chamber has been working on and is excited to have a full-time executive director in place.

Board member Chloeann Choate echoed him.

“I’m excited about the change,” Choate said. “The opportunity for business and education services is great.”

A new website for the chamber at 822 Main Street, Rochester, was launched Wednesday as well. Events, members, community links and other information is available at

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.

What has changed NAME: Fulton County Chamber of Commerce MEMBERS: Open to businesses countywide WEBSITE: NEWSLETTER: The Business Minute, a new newsletter, will go to members and their employees twice a month SPONSORSHIP: Sponsorship levels were created, which allows the chamber to increase the annual operating budget by $19,000 over 2013 MAIN STREET: A certified Main Street Program will be developed in Rochester this year ARTWORK: For $45 artists can display art for sale at chamber office. MISSION: Through supportive partners and active engagement with its members, the Fulton County Camber of Commerce serves to foster economic development and build community strength within Fulton County