Jamie Henderson has been named the interim director of the Milbank-Area Chamber. She officially took over on August 17, although she had been working as a part-time administrative assistant to the former director, Laurie Folk, for the last eight months.
Henderson believes the business climate in the Milbank area is hot right now and the forecast indicates it’s going to remain hot. “We’ve seen new businesses such as food trucks crop up in the last few years. People are stepping outside the box. So things are exciting.” Even though the Milbank Area Chamber includes over 175 businesses, Henderson still sees opportunities for growth. Clothing for kids and shoes for the entire family is one hole in the local market she would like to see filled.
In her new role, she also envisions herself stepping outside the norm. Each director strives to accomplish the Chamber’s mission, but each director also puts their unique stamp on things. Henderson says, “First, I would like to create a more personal relationship with our members so that I can clearly understand their needs. I also want to find new ways to interact with the community and with our Chamber members – maybe reinvent a few things.”
She says she believes “most merchants join the Chamber to pool their resources and get their name out in the community. Many are also looking to network with other businesses.” The latter need is one she hopes to emphasize. ”I would like to create more opportunities to bring businesses together and, of course, be an advocate for them.” However, she is concerned some business owners might be stretched thin these days by lack of help, and they might not be able to find as much time to step away from their work.
She realizes leading the Chamber is a challenging position. The mission of the Milbank Area Chamber states they seek “to promote favorable economic growth and vitality for its membership and business community by marketing the region to new individuals, as well as businesses, and produce economic impact from tourism.” Henderson says, “Just staying focused on the mission and meeting the needs of our members” will keep her busy. She plans to get the job done by using her willingness to listen. She also aims to give other people the tools they need to succeed. Henderson’s own toolbox includes a master’s degree in human service administration and nonprofit leadership and an under-grad in graphic communications.
She describes herself as organized, which has already proved to be an essential and valuable skill as she has discovered Chamber events include at least a million details. She also believes her compassionate and friendly nature will make her job a fun and rewarding experience.
“Meeting new people is so important. I plan to go out and get in front of some of our members and meet the ones I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. I look forward to talking with them. Honestly, I find it fun to learn more about Milbank.”
However, she is no stranger to this neck of the woods. She’s a native of Ortonville and graduated from OHS. She and her husband, Tyler, moved to rural Marvin about 10 years ago, where they are raising their four children ages five, six, 10 and 13. She says she believes people gravitate to rural areas because “in small-town America there really is that sense of community people are longing for. Everyone cares and gets behind you to give you support. People choose a rural lifestyle because they can see how they are making things better for the next generation. In a small town you know who those people are!”
Henderson invites everyone to stop by to visit with her at the Chamber office in the Milbank Visitors Center. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.until 2 p.m.