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Chamber looks back with eye on future

September 16, 2009
The Crawford County Chamber of Commerce kicked off what members hope will be a rejuvenation by honoring its living founding members Thursday, Sept. 3, at a dinner at the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth.

Sam and Mary Swan, Harry and Helen Cummings and Jackie Hecht were recognized for their efforts to expand the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce, which formed in 1979, into a countywide organization just two years later, with plaques.

Wayne Apple is the only other member of the steering committee still living, but he was in Florida and couldn't attend.

The Swans and Cummingses also received lifetime Chamber memberships, and all were honored as Distinguished Hoosiers by Gov. Mitch Daniels, with State Sen. Richard Young and State Rep. Dennie Oxley I presenting the honor.

Ralph Stroud, who served as treasurer for the Crawford County Chamber, which held its first meeting on Sept. 1, 1981, at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, gave a brief history of the steering committee's efforts, including reading an address to the county it placed in The Crawford County Democrat in April 1981.

"Many opportunities are available through the lobbying efforts of any organization such as a chamber of commerce, but it is felt that it must take in a wider range of people to realize the potential success that can be achieved," the address stated. "Our proposal to you is that the organization go countywide with increased membership, a new name and organization."

"Sam, how long did it take you to write this?" Stroud asked Swan.

"Are you sure I wrote it?" Swan quipped.

Swan, who had been chairman of the Leavenworth Chamber, served as the first president for the countywide organization, which featured 205 charter members. Harold Fancher of Marengo was the first vice president.

Today, the Chamber has about 50 members, but directors are hoping to change that, in part by becoming more visible. The organization has an office in the county's Welcome Center, just north of Interstate 64 at Carefree, but it's the Chamber's presence on the Web that has officials most excited.

"It's truly to let people outside of Crawford County know we have businesses here and what we do," Steve Bartels, a member of the board representing the Taswell and Eckerty areas, said of the Web site, www.crawfordcountychamber.com.

The site features Chamber Calendar — for newsworthy events, such as ribbon-cuttings, classes or special programs — and Member List pages, he said.

"Whether you're a member or not, we're going to put your name in there," Bartels said of the Member List, explaining those belonging to the Chamber also will have their phone number and address listed and business Web page linked.

Another benefit of being a member, he said, is a discount program. For example, Bartel's business, Patoka Lake Marina, is offering other Chamber members a discount of 15 percent on the cost of a boat or cabin rental.

In addition to being an information resource, the goal of the Web site, Bartels said, is to generate revenue for the Chamber through clicks. He, therefore, encouraged member businesses without a Web site to develop one so their site can be linked to the Chamber's.

As an enticement, the Chamber is providing personalized membership signs to those who join the Chamber, he said.

Chamber President Gary Wiseman said the organization has been trying to start a Web site since 2005 and is "excited" by the opportunities one presents.

Pat Stroud, who represents Liberty and Sterling townships on the board, noted the Welcome Center will feature a brochure rack for Chamber members only. Members who would like to have their brochures in the rack should call 739-2246 or 1-888-755-2282.

The Chamber, Stroud added, has updated the free county maps it makes available and the new edition will be available about the first of November, and has updated the plat book it puts out with Harrison County. The book will be available for purchase by the end of the year, she said.

Annual memberships cost $60 for businesses, $36 for nonprofits and $24 for individuals. For more information, call the above numbers or visit www.crawfordcountychamber.com.

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