Wauwatosa chamber sets priorities for the year

Feb. 19, 2013

The Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce presented a strategic plan this week, setting a course for the year.

The plan calls for the chamber to focus on membership and marketing, economic development, and business education and communication.

It is the chamber's first new plan in several years, executive director Terry Estness said, and is the product of a series of meetings that began in May.

"If you created a Venn diagram of each of the three taskforces, and put down what was important to each one, one constant in all three taskforces was the ambassador program," Estness said at meeting of chamber members and officers last week.

Reinvigorated last year, the ambassador program provides outreach to potential new members and touches base with current members in the community. The ambassadors are Joe Torelli of Raymond James Financial and Dick Deschane of Access Information Management.

Estness said outreach isn't only in the hands of the two men, but rather is "a collaborative action of the board, because we're all in this together. … That person-to-person contact is vital - it's what makes it real, what makes it personal."

The business education and communication taskforce identified a set of priorities that includes using the ambassadors for community outreach, topical business-related seminars on a quarterly basis, networking events and education opportunities in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Another important element, Estness said, is "regular and consistent communication, and so we've reconstituted the Monday Message," a weekly email newsletter, and "we are in the process of updating and improving the website. We recently met with representatives from Visit Milwaukee, and their new microsite that will highlight Wauwatosa, and they have said they will share the optimization phrases that both the city will be able to use and we'll be able to integrate into our website, to help people and businesses find us."

Johnson Bank's Bill Feagles, a member of the business education taskforce, said forging relationships between businesses and secondary schools provides rich opportunities.

The chamber co-sponsored an Engineering Career Night this week at Wauwatosa West High School, featuring professionals from different engineering disciplines and technical college representatives.

On the membership side, the chamber has about 230 members and an attrition rate of about 20 percent.

Rose Murack of Radisson Hotel Milwaukee-West said the membership taskforce set a goal of 235 members this year, growing to 265 in 2014, while improving retention rates. The chamber plans a business expo in 2014 - a new initiative.

Economic development hasn't been an emphasis of the chamber in the past, said Marilyn Haroldson of MKHaroldson Planning & Real Estate Consulting. Serving on the economic development taskforce with Mayor Kathy Ehley and former mayor Estness, opportunities were seen to work more closely with the city in providing and directing members to resources.

The chamber had revenues of about $98,000 last year, said President Craig Schmutzer of Park Bank. Membership dues are sources of income. Advertising in its new community directory boosted its revenues this year, Schmutzer said.

The Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce sponsors an Annual Showcase, five Business After Hours events a year, a quarterly business seminar series, an annual golf outing, political forums, and frequent morning and evening meetings of ABLE (Active Business Leads Exchange) together with other chambers, and other activities and events.


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