(left) and Bourbon County Commissioner-elect Barbara Albright chat prior to the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce Coffee Thursday morning at the chamber office. About 80 chamber members attended the first chamber coffee of the new year.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)
The first chamber coffee of 2013 was attended by about 80 people. Chamber board member Jordan Witt welcomed the crowd.
"It is fitting to have the first coffee of the new year at an organization that does so much for the community," he said.
Bryan Holt, the 2013 chamber board chairman, explained the purpose of the chamber and its operations, introduced chamber board members and staff, as well as division heads, and discussed the role the chamber plays in the community.
Holt also said he was glad to see the number of people who turn out for the weekly chamber coffees, which are opportunities for chamber members to network and hear information on new and existing businesses.
The volunteer, nonprofit organization works with various entities in the community to facilitate growth for existing businesses and to recruit new business and industry. More than 15 volunteer committees serve to enhance community growth.
Holt said board members, who meet once a month, provide direction to chamber staff.
Board members include Deb McKenney, Mark McCoy, Barbara Albright, Jim Pitts, Larry Gazaway, Kale Nelson, Michael Bryant, Gina Findley, Crystal Mattox, Jordan Witt, Kevin Allen, Debbie Anderson, Reta Baker, J.D. Handly and Holt.
"There are three people who make the chamber run," Holt said, referring to staff members Lindsay Madison, executive director, and her office staff, administrative assistant Nancy Cragg, and visitor information assistant Nancy Wimmer.
"Lindsay goes above and beyond and puts on a great face for the city of Fort Scott," Holt said.
Chamber staff have worked hard recently to bring more bus tours to Fort Scott, which are important to the city, Holt said.
Holt said he moved back to Fort Scott with his family in 2005.
"I believe in what we're doing here," he said. "Commerce is in our name."
Some of the division heads talked about the purpose of their respective departments.
Anderson, chairwoman of the community promotion division, said the department encompasses tourism, the downtown area and the community as a whole, as well as public relations. One goal of the division this year, Anderson said, is to possibly redesign and redo advertising billboards seen throughout the city. Another objective is to continue the Curb Appeal program.
McCoy, chairman of the business and resource development division, which encompasses business, legislative and governmental affairs, is also the chamber representative for the Bourbon County Economic Development Council. McCoy said the division plans to continue offering educational and informational seminars for area businesses.
For 2013, seminars will focus on safety and security, including "how to protect ourselves, homes and businesses" in the event of a tornado, such as the twister that struck Joplin, Mo., in 2011, "so we're better prepared," if a disaster were to occur here, McCoy said.
Holt said the chamber has three goals for 2013; to increase membership to 420 members by Sept. 30, 2013; to establish a chamber ambassador program; and increase social media usage. The chamber currently has more than 400 members from across Bourbon County.
Other chamber department heads are Findley, chairwoman of the finance division, and McKenney, chairwoman of the member relations and retention division.
Announcements made at the coffee included:
* City Manager Dave Martin wished attendees a happy new year and briefly addressed a recent situation regarding General Public Transportation, which is faced with raising $9,000 by June 30, or shutting down. Martin said he wanted to make it clear that the city is not involved with funding for the program, but said it "is a needed service." Martin said a meeting has been set this month to "see where we're at and look at expenses" as he and others try to find a solution. Martin said he is open to any ideas from the community regarding saving the service.
* McCoy announced that longtime board member Jerry Witt is retiring from the board this year. Attendees applauded Witt and his wife, Judy, for more than 30 years of involvement with the chamber.
* Ann Gillmore-Hoffman, director of Lee's Paws and Claws Animal Shelter, expressed her gratitude to local businesses that have supported the shelter and also talked about the no-kill shelter's recent activities.
* Micheal Bryant, director of operations for Cobalt Medplans, said the company currently has 144 employees, 98 of whom work at the firm's Fort Scott location. Bryant said the company has had much support during its growth period.
* Little Luxuries, owned and operated by Lynn Chaney, is a new business in the downtown area.
* Madison thanked attendees for coming to the coffee and said she appreciates working with city officials. The chamber "has a great relationship with other entities in town," she said.
* Kansasworks Business Services Representative Jolene Ray said there are 333 available jobs within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburg posted on the workforce program's website, www.kansasworks.com.