Today is National Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day. You’ve seen the Chamber bulldog stickers in businesses around town. But what does the Chamber do? And how can you help support them?
What does the Chamber do? When you open a new business, the Chamber is there to welcome you. If you’ve been around for years, the Chamber helps connect you to other businesses and business people and it reminds your customers about the value of shopping local.
Searching for a product? From Tupperware to cheese, if it can be purchased locally, the Chamber helps you find it. The nearly 200 businesses on the Milbank Area Chamber roster include members in Wilmot, Corona, Twin Brooks, Strandburg, Big Stone, Ortonville, and Watertown. Laurie Folk, director of the Milbank Area Chamber, says their newest member is CRBS Guns in Big Stone City. And you could be next.
She says, “Over the years, our businesses have changed. The Chamber is no longer just main street businesses. Many don’t even have a brick and mortar store. Home-based companies are popular and always welcome.” Folk says, “We have such a variety, some of our member businesses are a one-man band and some employ hundreds.”
If you aren’t in business, you can still experience the magic of the Chamber. Although COVID-19 wreaked havoc with many events this year, you probably recognize these perennial favorites: Treat Street Holiday Bingo Weekly Holiday Drawings Holiday Lighted Parade, Holiday Light Decorating Contest, Holiday Kids Movie, Farm and Home Show, 4th of July Fireworks, Weekly Summer and Fall Farmers Markets, Golf Tournament, Drive-in Movies, Farley Fest with Concerts, Art, and Food, Rooster Rush Promo.
How can you support your local chamber? Folk says, “The biggest support is to shop at Chamber businesses. Buy local. Remember Ol’ Mill Bucks!” She says, “Ol’ Mill Bucks are a vital part of the Chamber office. They spend like real money in any Chamber store. So, they make great gifts. Last year alone, the Chamber helped over $118,000 in Ol’ Mill bucks go into cash registers at local stores.”
If you aren’t a member, consider joining. Attend the events or volunteer to help out at one. There’s a place for everyone — from taking tickets to helping construct a stage or filling bags with candy. You’ll be rewarded by knowing you’re creating family-friendly events and helping your hometown prosper. You might even meet a new friend.
“But,” Folk says, “there’s no obligation.” “Some members join for the credibility and visibility Chamber membership gives their business. Some join and encourage their employees to have all the fun.” Right now, Folk says she is busy sending out yearly invoices to current members. She reminds everyone dues are tax deductible and could offer you a discount on your insurance.
Folk says she was hired at the Chamber for her membership and finance skills, “But I discovered events are my favorite part of the job. They let me get creative.” And though there is already so much to do, Laurie still spends her spare time dreaming of ways to increase tourism in our area.