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Chamber growing bigger and better

In just two years the Madison County Chamber of Commerce has reached 100 members and continues to grow.

“Having more members makes the chamber that much stronger,” Madison County Chamber of Commerce President Tessa Rehkop said. “We are all about promoting each other through networking and referrals, which only gets better with numbers.”

Rehkop said having a chamber with so many members establishes credibility and trust which gives businesses and organizations confidence and encourages more to join.

“We’re a team, and the more members we have, the more successful we’ll be by working together,” Rehkop said. “The chamber has established credibility in the community by having a board of directors which includes representatives from local businesses and organizations.”

Rehkop said members benefit in many ways including expanding their network, improving public relations, promoting business, developing the community, receiving business referrals and the chamber is a member of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce allowing its members to be eligible for an affordable health program called Missouri Chamber Federation Benefit Plan.

“Building relationships is essential to business growth and expansion,” Rehkop said. “The chamber offers monthly luncheons and other events to enlarge your circle of influence. By getting involved in your city and supporting your chamber you’re making your organization more credible and visible to the community.”

Rehkop said the chamber is a way to cost effectively market a business to other chambers, local residents and out-of-town visitors by being listed in the printed and online directory and by offering various advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

“The chamber is working to make Madison County a greater place to live, work and play and being a chamber member allows you to help make a difference in the community,” Rehkop said. “The organization will only refer chamber members when they receive requests for information.”

The original chamber was the Fredericktown Chamber of Commerce which was founded in 1946. The current Madison County Chamber of Commerce was reformed in 2016 in order to include Marquand.

“It was really unfortunate that the chamber ended before,” Rehkop said. “I just hope we can learn from it and use it to motivate us.”

Rehkop said the board has tried very hard to establish a system of checks and balances trying to remain as transparent as possible.

“In some ways we are doing this by not having one person solely responsible for any aspect of the chamber,” Rehkop said. “All board members have access to membership records and payments. Also, the treasurer provides a report of all finances at the monthly luncheon, which all members can see.”

Rehkop said building momentum was a concern at the beginning, but the board was surprised to find quite the opposite as several community members expressed the desire and necessity of having a chamber of commerce in the community. 

“Kent Marler of New Era Bank planned a meeting back in September 2016 for those that were interested in starting the chamber back up,” Rehkop said. “There was a great turnout. Also, Allison Boyer of New Era Bank was elected the first president, and she’s well known and trusted in the community and has dedicated a lot of her time to make sure our first year went smoothly.”

Rehkop said after only one short year, the new chamber had reached the same number of members as when the previous chamber had disbanded.

“I think participation in the previous chamber had started to lag and re-establishing it has just remotivated member participation,” Rehkop said. “Not everyone joins the chamber for the same reason and we try to provide a variety of benefits to every member.” 

Rehkop said many neighboring small towns have chambers, and she likes to think of them as a team who could work together to promote southeast Missouri attractions.

“Most of our members are also members of other nearby chambers and they have been so helpful to us in getting started again,” Rehkop said. “I personally have attended other chamber luncheons to get ideas for ours and they were so welcoming and helpful.”

The chamber co-hosted a ribbon cutting for The Depot Cafe with the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Rehkop said the success of the chamber lies in the hands of the board of directors.

“Our board of directors are an amazing group of people that have full=time jobs and families but still manage to volunteer so much time to the chamber,” Rehkop said. “Each board member has a specific role. Allison Boyer, vice president, is responsible for membership and renewals, Ashley Bales, treasurer is responsible for financial reporting and the monthly newsletter. Kim Long, secretary, keeps the minutes from all luncheons and board meetings. Beth Simmons, organizes all the luncheons. Heather Dieteker organizes all the Perk Before Works. Joy Starkey provides all our marketing materials including membership decals. Ginny Smith dedicates her time volunteering at all of our events. And Ronnie Gibbs and Craig Mills are in charge of community outreach.”

Rehkop said the chamber is very active in the community and if it is not directly hosting an event it tries to promote it through the community calendar.

“This year we have been extra active because it’s Madison County’s Bicentennial Celebration,” Rehkop said. “We’ve tried to host at least one event every month including a poster-decorating contest for students, community cleanup day, concert series, hiring event and Small Business Saturday just to name a few.”

For more information on the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and to see a list of all the members visit www.madisoncountycc.com

Members of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce gather Sept. 25 for the chamber's monthly Perk Before Work and to celebrate reaching 100 members. 

Members of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce gather Sept. 25 for the chamber’s monthly Perk Before Work and to celebrate reaching 100 members. 

Madison County Chamber of Commerce members gather for a monthly Perk Before Work networking event.

Madison County Chamber of Commerce members gather for a monthly Perk Before Work networking event.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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