Successful year sets Chamber up for opportunities
The De Soto Chamber of Commerce and its partner, the De Soto Economic Development Council, concluded what has to be considered an outstanding year Saturday with the Chamber's annual dinner and meeting.
This noticeable success came in a year that the Chamber or the EDC didn't announce the recruitment of a new industry or that saw new commercial ventures popping up on the city's thoroughfares, although the city did see the opening of a new retail center and saw one of its foundation industries announce a major expansion. The success was illustrated in the attendance at Saturday's meeting, which drew about 140 members and guests.
The leadership of the Chamber has made the organization a vital and growing presence in the community. Chamber membership grew by 42 percent this year to nearly 150 members. Equally important the Chamber registered a retention rate of 90 percent. EDC's membership nearly doubled, ending the year with 60 members.
Much of the credit for this success must be given to the 2004 Chamber president, Shannan Nelson. The Shawnee construction contractor took office with a plan to increase membership that exceeded its goal in no small part because of the irresistible force that is Nelson's salesmanship, enthusiasm and creativity.
The Chamber added morning coffee gatherings and afternoon socials at member locations, increasing networking possibilities and camaraderie among participants. It worked with the city to complete a housing assessment and marketing strategy, which built on the targeted industry study of the year before.
Nelson's membership drive cast a wide net, reeling in new members from Shawnee, Lenexa and other neighboring communities. The strategy worked because traditional De Soto members recognized the value of accepting the "outsiders," as Nelson characterized himself Saturday. A more provincial membership might have groused about the change in the nature of membership, rejecting the advantages to the Chamber's bottom line and ignoring the connections opened with the new membership eager to do business in De Soto.
Recognizing the success of the past year, new President Dustin Baker said he would copy Nelson's formula. He will be aided by returning board members and Chamber Executive Director Sara Ritter.
Chamber members and De Soto residents shouldn't look for big announcements in 2005. Little commercial or industrial recruitment can be done until a new wastewater plant is finished in early 2007. What has been put in place is an organization that can fully exploit the opportunities when the sewer plant is completed. When that happens, remember the groundwork of 2004.