Monthly Archives: June 2015

What did you do last weekend?

When I signed up for this tour of duty, I understood exactly what it meant. Dinner meetings, evening speaking engagements, late night business socials, official Chamber Business After Hours events, day long community activities, and working some weekend days. Running a Chamber of Commerce means you are never quite “off duty” in your community. I get that. And I love it.

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This past weekend began on Thursday evening with our monthly Business After Hours, which was not a normal BAH event. The Chamber Member had a street closed, hired a motorcycle stunt team and had a major cookout. Networking, business cards exchanged, introductions of new members, handshaking, taking pictures and raffle drawings make a brief 2.5 hour after work event seem like a full day.

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Saturday we kicked off Lemonade Day 2015, with the best tasting contest as part of the Miss North Dakota social event at the local art museum.  Blue sky June weather always makes a Chamber event better. The Miss ND contestants sampled and interacted with our young, budding business owners, and a great time was had by all. It was truly a treat to have the 2014 Miss ND Jacky Arness visit, along with her southern colleague, Miss South Dakota, Meredith Gould.

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I did manage some ‘non-chamber’ time by helping a friend, Jeff, learn to fly cast. On the spur of the moment, he asked if I would like to go for a ride before the Miss North Dakota pageant. I said, “Sure, who will drive?” He replied, “No, not drive…a ride…in my plane.” So the newest licensed pilot in Williston, ND skillfully treated me a spectacular plane ride over Teddy Roosevelt National Park and part of the North Dakota badlands. My new Nikon D7000 got quite a workout at 3,500 feet above the Bakken. Congrats to Jeff on your accomplishment, and thanks for allowing me to tag along.

After a pinpoint landing in a cross-wind, I had a quick bite to eat, put on a jacket and slid into Row L, Seat 5 for the next 3 plus hours to take in the Miss North Dakota Pageant final evening of competition. I was a bit forlorn about missing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (those who have read me before, know I’m a hockey junkie) while sitting in the Williston High School auditorium on Saturday night. Last year, as a new Chamber President I attended the social, the breakfast for the contestants, and we hosted a VIP reception to help raise money for the scholarship organization when Miss ND 2014 Jacky Arness, spoke at our 2015 Annual Banquet in January. The Chamber’s ties to the organization are solid, but I still had not attended the actual pageant, so Saturday night was my first.

I left the auditorium around 10:40 pm very much inspired and encouraged, and convinced that of the 24 women who came to Williston to vie for the title of Miss North Dakota, there are future business and political leaders among them.  The evening was a very humbling and warming experience.

Sunday came sooner than I expected, but right on time by the clock. After five plus months of planning, we launched Williston Lemonade Day 2015. It was a  new program, with new volunteers, the first one in North Dakota, and major sponsors looking to us for their return on investment. The day went spectacular, with more than 150 youth entrepreneurs signed up, likely more than 50 lemonade stands in town, and yellow volunteer tee shirts everywhere. We called it a success after the awards ceremony and a great picnic cookout by the Williston Community Builders. Media, local officials and sponsors had big smiles as the lemonade stand owners came forward to get their certificates, or to be recognized with an achievement medal.

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Newly crowned Miss North Dakota 2015 Delanie Weidrich, made her first official public appearance at the picnic and enjoyed the interaction with the young business owners and their families.

By 7:15 pm Sunday evening I think I had only driven about 6 miles all weekend (not counting those nautical knots in the air!) but I felt like I drove across the country. Wiped and sun beaten, I enjoyed a cold beverage at home. And while my weekend could have been considered ‘work’ by some, I view it as just doing our job. Being a volunteer or a staff member of a nonprofit organization like a Chamber of Commerce brings some extra commitments, and certainly can’t be viewed as a ‘normal’ job by any stretch.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Sigh, is it really election season already?

Don’t look now, but it’s already campaign season. Remember when Labor Day weekend was the official kick off to the campaigns, during the actual election year? When did it become an 18-24 month process to campaign for office?

North Dakota voters will decide no less than eleven (11) statewide offices in 2016, and at least one statewide measure. ELEVEN!!! From President, Vice President, Governor, Lt. Governor; to US Senate, US Representative (ND has one US House seat, so by default, it’s a statewide race). Then you can vote for State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner and Tax Commissioner. Holy hanging chads, Batman!

We’ve now seen twenty (20) declared Republican presidential candidates and six more have exploratory committees, while on the Democrat side of the aisle nine (9) candidates have declared their desire to live on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s Capitol City. That means it will be virtually impossible to escape any campaign messaging, no matter how you get your news and information.

You can thank the the kajillion news channels and quadzillion internet options for candidates to get their message out – all which require billions of dollars. The media LOVES this idea of candidates spending your donations on more ‘impressions’ and ‘likes.’ For whether you actually write a check to a candidate, go online and like a MEME of Governor Chris Christie (there’s quite a few good ones btw), or buy a home, the campaigns are actually spending your money.

Let’s take a look where most Presidential campaign donations are generated. According to OpenSecrets.org, more than $1.2 billion was spent by Obama and Romney campaigns (for a job that pays $450,000). If you look closely at all of the top donors, most of them are companies, Political Action Committees, and bundlers. There were no federal dollars used in the 2012 Presidential campaign.

Here’s the bombshell: It’s all yours. All of the money used, with the exception of President Obama’s $5,000 and Mitt Romney’s $52,000 personal contributions, was yours. Did you buy a computer in 2010-2012? Microsoft contributed more than $800K to the Obama campaign. Oh what’s that you say? You didn’t vote for him? But your money did…

Do you bank at or have investments with Wells Fargo or Bank of America by chance? Combined, they wrote checks to the Romney campaign for about $1.7 million. But you voted for President Obama? Bummer, eh? Your money supported the loser.

Did you buy a new home in 2011? Did you know the realtors organizations and lobby groups gave more than $15 million to Romney and more than $7 million to Obama for the 2012 campaigns? Yikes.

My point is no matter what you buy, which organizations you belong to, or who you support; we ALL are contributors to political office candidates in one form or another. So you can’t really prevent your money from being spent on a political campaign, unless you live in a van down by the river. Here’s my suggestion for 2016: how about becoming an informed voter?

Our Chamber’s first strategic pillar states:

Strengthen the influence and reputation of the Chamber through bold and thoughtful advocacy and public policy initiatives.

Through voter education, issue identification, candidate forums, the Chamber will help our Members and the community be more informed as the election nears. So while you can’t ultimately prevent all of your disposable income from finding its way to someone’s campaign coffers, at least you can learn about the issues that matter most to you, your family, and your business.

Then make an informed decision about your vote. You only get one.

Use it wisely.

 

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Ctl-Alt-Del – Please Reboot 2015

I’m not sure what happened, but I came to the office and found that five months have somehow skirred through the calendar. However June 1 gives organizations and individuals a chance to restart fresh in case things haven’t gone as planned for 2015. In some ways the year so far has been a smashing success. In other areas, we need to hit ‘restart’ and refocus our energies a bit to hit the summer with momentum.

Our Chamber has made some incredible strides the past 12 months. We’ve hit high water marks for activity, attendance and momentum; the Annual2015 Membership web badge Banquet in January; our ‘Bus to Bismarck’ Lobby Day in February; the ShamRockin’ the Bakken Taste of Williston event in March; and the Level UP 2015 Business Conference in May were smash hits. Even our ‘normal’ Business After Hours events seemed to have taken on a flavor of energy, networking and even some fun. The theme for the year “Raising the Bar” has been our mantra, and we’ve lived up to that quite nicely. In most areas.

I would like to reboot our efforts concerning membership numbers, dues investment totals and member touches. It seems we’ve become extremely busy, with marginal results. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Let’s hit the restart button on that.

Our online presence is nearly imperceptible. That was one of the first ‘to-dos’ I had last year, and it’s still not acceptable. Let’s restart on that as well.

But while I can nitpick, I also am aware of how far we’ve come in just 15 months. It’s sort of like a team that made the playoffs for the first time in a while, but lost in the first round. We’ll get there…

The title of this post wasn’t meant to be a downer, it was meant as a sort of a wake up call. That we’re still operating, but a bit sluggish and stuck once in a while. So by hitting Ctl-Alt-Del we save all the progress we’ve made so far in 2015, but clean out the bugs and get a fresh start.

And the personal resolutions from January are also getting a fresh reboot today. We’ll see how that goes.

-Sjm

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