Chamber members get annual update

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce President Brian Donnelly updates members on the organization’s activities in 2017 during the Chamber’s annual meeting at the Bluffs in Houghton Friday.

HOUGHTON — 2017 was a transitional year for the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, and ultimately a successful one, said President Brian Donnelly.

The organization should finished with cash reserves of $30,000 more than at the close of 2016, Donnelly said at the Chamber’s annual meeting Friday. The organization’s budget is about $80,000 to $90,000 a year, about $50,000 of which goes to the visitors center.

Thousands of people come to the visitors center each year, particularly in the summer, Donnelly said.

“They come through here, they’re looking for information about the area,” he said. “Even though you might not have interaction with the Chamber of Commerce on a regular basis, your customers may be stopping in.”

This is the first year the Chamber has shared the visitors center office with the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance. Donnelly said to co-location would allow the organizations to work together and deploy resources in the same direction.

“I think that’s something the community said they wanted for a long time, and we were able to get that going this year,” he said.

Staff members Tara Arens and Whitney Warstler are also shared between the organizations.

“I’m so excited about the things they’re going to do,” Donnelly said. “They’re very enthused and passionate about what they’re doing.”

In the coming year, the Chamber will host a series of events focused on helpful tips for small businesses, Warstler said. It will also ask volunteers to help out as Ambassadors. They serve as points of contact for prospective and current Chamber members.

Next year will also see the second round of Leadership Keweenaw. The program gave participants a crash course in various sectors of the Keweenaw, such as courts, educational/workforce development and environmental stewardship.

“It should be done not only with newbies, but with many of the other people who have been here for years,” said Osceola Township Supervisor Steven Karpiak, one of the presenters. “It’s a good refresher course and for people who re getting introduced to the area, it’s a good introduction.”

Amanda McConnon, organizer of the program, also spoke about the the upcoming Holiday Hoopla event, which will be held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Continental Fire Co. Proceeds will go to the Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Community Action Agency, the Chamber’s traditional fundraising recipient.

McConnon said the committee had explored donating to a different organization. But the range of services it offered, from cleaning chimneys to running a food pantry, convinced it to keep the CAA.

One of the CAA’s success stories was a woman with a bad furnace who had relied on a blanket and space heater — and a nose warmer she had crocheted for herself. The CAA determined she was eligible for a new furnace.

“They came in and gave her a new furnace, and she could have people over again,” McConnon said. “She could have friends over during the winter to have a party. And it completely transformed her life.”

The Chamber also elected officers during the annual meeting. Incumbent Carrie Richards and new nominees Mary Myers, Morgan Impola and Matt Maise were chosen for four three-year terms.