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Board Chair Kim Vandermeulen - State of the Kennebec Valley Chamber 2014

State of the Kennebec Valley Chamber 2014
Kim Vandermeulen, Board Chair

Kim Vandermeulen, Board Chair

The year 2014 has been a busy and productive one for your Chamber. While pursuing, promoting and assisting in the economic development of projects such as new business and retail establishments and continuing to facilitate expansion of a natural gas source for the region, we have continued our member services with more than 50 specific member events throughout the year.

Our Board has focused upon a number of special goals this year. A major effort, as noted, is to increase our Chamber membership. We are currently at about 600 active members. We have engaged a consultant who has helped design a campaign to add 100 to 150 new members during the drive. Thankfully we have more than 80 volunteers committed to help make this happen.

And they have some great incentives for new members to join us. Thanks to our very generous media members – Kennebec Journal, Townsquare Media, Mountain Wireless and Turner Publishing – each new member may be eligible to receive some $5,000 in free advertising! The papers and radio stations are offering this to new chamber members who are also new advertisers with these media.

We’ve made the drive a fun competitive event with an opportunity for each volunteer to receive multiple prizes. Our existing members – thank you, very much! – have donated more than $10,000 in prizes for the volunteers. Top prize will be a vacation for two in the Caribbean.

We are also continuing the process of transition in Chamber management which was started in 2013. Peter Thompson will step down from his post at the end of February 2015. The Board is in the process of seeking a new CEO for your Chamber. Interviews will be scheduled this fall and we hope to make a decision on a replacement by the end of the year. Peter has served the Chamber for nearly 26 years and will get some time off to pursue new interests.

The Board is also exploring the possibilities of either expanding the present Chamber office or finding another space for our somewhat cramped headquarters.

We’ve seen some exciting new projects in the Augusta micropolitan this year. The downtown Augusta $50 million courthouse is nearing completion. NRF Distributors is building a 50,000 square-foot warehouse addition on North Augusta. The former MaineGeneral hospital, now owned by Dirigo Capital Advisors, is undergoing reconstruction to meet the needs of new tenants.

By the numbers: Our Augusta Micro is doing quite well as we continue to emerge from the recession. In August, when the United States unemployment was down to 6.3 and the Maine rate was at 5.2 percent, the Augusta area rate was at its six year low of 4.8 percent. The civilian labor force in the Augusta market is 44,800 with more than 42,700 employed and 2,100 unemployed.

On the sales front, Augusta grew in total retail sales from $952 million in the year 2012 to $991 million in 2013. A four percent increase. While we have a way to go this year we are seeing a slight increase. In the first two quarters reported for 2014 we total $473 million, compared to $470 million in the first two quarters of 2013. Not super exciting, but, really, not bad.

I mentioned our staff manages some 50 events during the year for our members. They range from our Business Insider breakfast seminars and our Business-After-Hours receptions to our Young Professional Group (CYNERGY), Women’s Network luncheons and free Brown Bag Lunch seminars.

We also produced the Annual Awards program with some 900 people for dinner in January, organized the Kennebec Leadership Institute along with the University of Maine at Augusta, and coordinated a major summer event, the Whatever Family Festival and Kids Day at Capitol Park. In addition we fielded a leadership golf tournament at Augusta country club, engaged 80 volunteers to visit 500 of our members on Member Appreciation Day in April and planned a business to business EXPO at the Civic Center. This year’s EXPO, incidentally is next Wednesday, October 8, at the Civic Center, from 4 to 7 pm. Entry fee is your business card. Don’t miss it.

A week after that, October 15 and 16, we’ll hold our super membership drive which I’ve already mentioned and another week after that, October 22, we will have our monthly Business-After-Hours at the Armory Street branch of Camden National Bank.

It has been a pleasure and an honor for me to serve as your Board Chair this year, and I’d like to personally thank every one of you who has helped to make the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce strong I n its mission to improve the economy and life quality here in the Kennebec Valley!


Sponsor Information: This article was sponsored by: Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce

Contact Information: For more information contact: Peter G. Thompson 207-623-4559