Category Archives: Events

New year, new goals, new focus

It was easy as a National Guard photojournalist. Once per month, get an assignment, take some pics, write the story and by 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, hand it over to the editor. Taking on a writing project (like a blog, for instance) on your own brings an entirely new level of responsibility. Like actually doing it.

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Most of the last twenty entries came out of this keyboard with flowing grace, seemingly appearing effortlessly on my screen, like snow flakes floating down late some calm December afternoon.  The new year has brought on a flurry of new intensity, and focus on our Chamber’s core missions. So let’s get to it.

Banquet wrap up
The Programs & Services Committee started to work in earnest last summer planning the 2016 Annual Banquet, which culminated on January 22 in roaring fashion. We tweaked the event slightly untitled-50from 2015 including:

  • Separated the ‘business meeting’ portion from the banquet. This gave an opportunity to hear from staff and committee chairs about their efforts.
  • Incorporating a theme, encouraging attendees and sponsors to ‘dress up’ for the night. We heard most of our positive feedback surrounding this detail.
  • Reduced our sponsorship opportunities to create more value for those Members who partnered with us.
  • Re-arranged the room to fit more people in seats.
  • Pulled off a limited live auction to raise funds for The Friends and Veterans of The Old Armory.

In all, we could not be more pleased with the support, partnership with Red River Supply our presenting sponsor, and everyone who attended the wonderful evening. Standing ovation goes to the Chamber staff, June, Bekka and Shawna; and of course the Chamber’s Programs and Services Committee. Which by the way has already been scheming about next year’s annual festivities!

New website, new opportunities
As we promised last year, we delivered a Williston business directory for the first time; and launched the 2016 version of http://www.willistonchamber.com. With the help of DAWA Solutions Group, the Chamber’s website is now able to be mentioned in the same drop down menu as Williston Economic Development, Williston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Williams County and the the City of Williston.

The best part is that we’ll be able to have ALL events listed for members and non-members, making our website THE resource for tons of events, organizations and information. We look forward to working on fleshing that website out as we move forward.

Next week we’ll explore the political and issues of 2016 we’ll be following and influencing.

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Behind these walls

So much Chamber activity occurs behind the 58 year old walls of this building during the month, I thought I’d take some time to bring you up to speed on the things we are focusing on, the challenges we are tackling, and the direction we are heading.

Structure:
While I am a bit bummed about not being able to move into new office space with the City, we are turning our attention to this building, the Armory. We hope to become a downtown welcome and information center for the City, given our prime location. The Armory is a tremendous asset for the community and has an interesting history. My goal is to renovate the public spaces here to become another option for community meetings and gatherings, in the next 12-18 months.

The Chamber committees are showing a few cracks in their membership. Some of our volunteer leaders have stepped down, some have moved out of town, and we hope to replenish those important cogs in our chamber machinery. Additionally, there are some Board seats that have opened up, and filling them also takes some effort on our part to make sure we have the right mixture of leadership on our governing body.

Programs and Services:
The 2016 Business Directory project is heading into production phase. We’ve completely sold out of our allotted ad spaces thanks to June and the staff for an unbelievable effort for the first time. We’ve contracted with a local designer to help layout and print the publication. The book should be available by January to Members (it’s included with your membership), and purchase by non-members or the general public.

The 2016 Annual Banquet has been scheduled for January 22 at the Grand Williston. A standing ovation goes out to Red Red River Oilfield Services OvalRiver Oilfield Services for partnering with us as the Banquet’s presenting sponsor. We can’t think of a stronger local business to work with to kick off our new year. The staff and program committee is busy working on details of the banquet, including some 1920’s theme and appropriate music, chamber awards and other surprises. We made a formal invitation to Governor Jack Dalrymple to join us as the keynote speaker as he begins his final year in office. We won’t be able to confirm his attendance until about four weeks out from the event, but we are hopeful his office will think our event is the right venue for the Governor in January.

Another standing ovation goes out to KLJ Engineering, who along with DAWA Solutions Group will help theklj Chamber produce the 2016 Level UP Business Conference. The keynote speaker will be Norman Brodsky, noted Inc. Magazine columnist and author of the business savvy book “Street Smarts.” The program lined up will knock your socks off, as we continue to bring quality business programming to our community and our membership.


Random musings:

  • Major props to the veterans service office from Williston and Minot as they host the 2nd Williston Veterans Standdown today at the Armory. So many vets, homeless, a bit lost since returning or moving to Williston, unemployed, under cared for – need our attention and assistance. Thanks to everyone for this valuable service. God bless our vets.
  • Main Street is officially opening next week. It’s been a long two years, and we look forward to a vibrant, active, safe downtown Williston.
  • I hope the City, Hula Grill and its Main Street neighbors can come to a reasonable solution to the ordinance/venting flare up. Williston’s enforcing their code. Hula Grill is trying to run a business. Seems like there’s some room to make it work for everyone somehow.
  • The fall pheasant hunt is well underway, and ol’ dead eye here happened to thin a few birds out near Regent and Mott. Getting outdoors this time of year is good for the soul.

Enjoy the fall weather.

– Sjm

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First impressions, second thoughts, and the third degree

As a tribute to one of my all time favorite sports writers back in Wisconsin, Andy Baggot, I offer my first impressions, second thoughts, and the third degree this week on a variety of issues.

First impressions of our first ever Eggs & Issues Policy Forum last Friday was WOW. Held at the Williston Area Recreation Center (ARC) at 7:30 a.m. following our Business After Hours the previous evening, I was a bit anxious about the turnout and response. To my delight, I counted more than 40 Chamber Members and business leaders in the room interacting with State Senator Brad Bekkedahl on a variety of state and regional issues.

We made the E&I event a ‘members only‘ exclusive for a reason. To provide increased value for your membership investment. Obviously it worked.Eggs and Issues logo Next month we’ll host North Dakota Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak on October 9. Julie has deep roots in Williston and Western North Dakota, and I’m grateful for her to take a couple of days from her work in Bismarck and be with us. Thanks to Enbridge for sponsoring last week’s E&I and to the GLEN Investment Group for stepping up and partnering with us for the Oct 9 forum. We couldn’t bring this type of program to the membership without great Chamber partners.

On second thought, maybe Williston had too many options this summer for activities and choices to spend our discretionary time and dollars. That could explain why some recent events have been thinly attended, or fallen short of expectations. I’ve was told ‘there’s nothing to do’ in Williston. From the looks of the numbers of events, concerts, free community events and variety of entertainment, business-sponsored seminars, nonprofit fun runs, educational opportunities, organizations to join, etc. there seems to be quite a few choices for residents and families to spend their time and entertainment dollars. Don’t always blame the ‘slowdown’ for lack of interest or participation at local events. It might just be that there are choices today that were absent in previous years.

I’ve learned a couple of things about Williston in eighteen months. It takes a while for a new event or concept to catch on, and secondly, the numbers of choices of events, concerts, and gatherings is a good thing. Community diversity is also part of our transition, and discretionary dollar spending will bear that out over time.

My third degree this week goes to The National Labor Relations Board and their decision to redefine the independent contractor role and the definition of employer-employee. I’ve written about this previously, but upon further review, the ruling on the Browning-Ferris case stinks even more. All businesses from builders to restaurants to franchise owners could be in for a bumpy road if this ruling doesn’t get overturned by federal legislation or in a federal court; either avenue will take years. In the meantime, the ruling is now federal law and the US Chamber of Commerce and others are scrambling to inform employers, local and state chambers and franchise owners of this onerous regulatory crap. As of this moment, two federal bills have been introduced that would reverse this ruling. But we all know how legislation moves in Washington lately, so the fight continues.

And while I don’t believe that this is necessarily the easiest task, one GOP Presidential Candidate, Scott Walker, said he would eliminate the NLRB on day one of his presidency. Again, that’s a great sound bite for those fighting against the federal government’s version of the NCAA, but there’s one tiny detail Governor Walker overlooked.

He needs to actually have a ‘day one’ of his presidency.

Today’s photos…

I ventured to Lund’s Landing over the weekend, a place like no other. A cute little hideaway on Lake Sakakawea owned by Jim and Analene Torgerson for the past 27 years. Fantastic walleye sandwich and of course, juneberry pie. Definitely worth a stop while you are out and about.

Lunds Landing Lunds Landing 1

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With wind filling our sails, Chamber continues moving forward

Following our successful Rockin’ Ribfest community event, the Chamber has taken the past three weeks to reassess our program offerings for Members; both revenue generating events and educational programs that may or may not benefit the bottom line.

Successful event momentum is like a warm shower; it feels good for a while, but at some point you have to get dressed and get back to work. Eventually you have to decide to either cruise for a while in the humid summer breeze, or grab an oar and start rowing. For the Chamber, we’ve studied the charts and adjusted our heading a bit as we look to the last half of 2015.

Beginning in August the Chamber will begin to assemble the first ever (I’ve used that term a lot this year) Williston Area Business Directory. Using our staff, the Chamber’s position as a resource for businesses in the area, and our momentum we’ve built up the past seven months, we’ll be able to produce a community resource that’s sorely needed. While all Williston area businesses will be invited to be listed, the advertising spots and most visible placements will be offered to Chamber members first. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Several local printers are bidding on the project, so I’m confident it will be a valuable local business guide. The goal is to expand the Chamber’s reach and visibility while providing a needed service and product for the business community in the area. Watch for more news and information about the directory in the next week.

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In September, we are launching the Chamber’s Eggs & Issues policy forums. A common program offering by chambers around the country, our Chamber is just picking up the pace in the public advocacy arena. This members-only event will be held the morning after the Chamber Business After Hours – enticing some high level state officials to make a two day visit to Williston. We’ll run three of these in the fall and three next spring.

The LevelUP Leadership Series will kick off in November and feature the hottest topics from our LevelUP 2015 Business Conference last May. The three part lunch series will feature one of our presenters from the May conference, exploring in depth one of the session topics like sales and marketing, human resources issues, or personal growth and development. All of this leads up to the LevelUP 2016 Conference in May 2016, which is already shaping up nicely.

Our monthly Business After Hours events, which traditionally garner between 80-110 attendees, have continued to be quality opportunities for Chamber Members to network, learn, and market to grow their business. Many of the 2016 hosting slots are filling up already.

Please take 30 seconds to take our one minute issue survey this week. The Board of Directors and the Government Affairs Committee thanks you as we start to shape our advocacy action plan for 2016.

The 21st Century (now 15 years old) technology revolution driven by the “millennial” workforce has forced nonprofit organizations such as chambers Image result for millennials technologyof commerce, trade associations and professional societies to rethink their business model and strategic plans. No longer are they the sole source of information, networking, marketing, support and advocacy for their members. It’s crucial to review programs and services, communications and advocacy plans and to ask and listen to members’ issues and interests.

As we continue in our own ‘race for relevance’ with our Members, in the community and in our region, I marvel in the fact that it’s already (or only) been 17 months since I’ve taken the helm at the Williston Chamber. As we chart our course and continue to crew this Chamber ship through both calm and choppy waters, I hope the wind continues to fill our sails and push us forward.

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Summertime is about community

Some observers say Williston is seven months of winter and one month of summer sandwiched in the middle of four months of construction season. Be that as it may, there is a real possibility of snow in late April or early May, so many of the city’s summertime events and activities take a while to get going. I sort of feel like this guy in the Kingsford spot…

There isn’t enough space to list all the community events and activities, groups and organizations that make Williston a great city. For anyone to say ‘there’s nothing to do in Williston’ is just pure balderdash. But one day last week felt a little different to me. A feeling I hadn’t experienced since I landed sixteen months ago.

Ribfest and Summer Nights on Main kicked off July in a way that gave me a familiar sensation; even though it was technically a ‘new event’ and aRibfest departure from the previous two decades of summer celebrations in Williston. Maybe it was the weather, where it rose to 90, then downpoured for 15 minutes and then was 90 degrees again. Maybe it was the heritage downtown businesses who opened up their doors and held welcoming sidewalk sales to eager shoppers who dodged the construction cages (anyone heard of Maxwell Street Days?). Maybe it was the smells, the smiles, the families gathered around the picnic tables talking to each other without the distraction of XBox controllers. Maybe it was the band and the flowing beverages after the last ribs were scarfed down, I’m really not sure.

Looking over the parking lot scene of summer fun, watching the band unload gear, seeing the interaction between the rib teams, sponsors, volunteers and families, I got the sense that I don’t just work in Williston – I live in Williston.

It felt like a community ought to feel on a downtown July summer day. If felt like…home.

I’m not trying to be over dramatic, but there was a true sense of coming together that day between organizations, people, businesses and families. The best part is that there are more of these types of opportunities every weekend and even on weeknights to learn, grow, share, work and play in more ways that anyone thought would happen in Williston. All you have to do is ask, or look around.

The small agriculture hub of Western North Dakota is turning into a thriving economic engine of the energy industry. While those changes are sometimes difficult to swallow, there is no denying that we are in the front row to history. But it’s also nice to know that we can maintain that sense of small-town-ishness when friends and neighbors come together in the summertime.

Just like any hometown should.

 

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Ribfest is about more than ribs

It’s not quite as bad as Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce makes it out to be in the classic M*A*S*H* episode “Adam’s Ribs.” But we all look for ‘something else’ in one form or another.

This week you might find that ‘something else’ as we celebrate our Phillips & Jordan Rockin’ Ribfest and the Summer Nights on Main Concert Series kickoff in downtown Williston. The combination of food and bragging rights draws secret chefs to the smoker for a chance at fame. Professional culinary experts are quick to dismiss backyard barbecue brethren with a swift wave of the spatula. Someone at your family reunion throws down the oven mitt and proclaims she makes the best potato salad in the family, while the crazy uncle from Hurley says his rib sauce should be bottled and marketed. A co-worker brings in a dessert dish that brings grown roustabouts to their knees. There is something about food that brings out a little extra in all of us.

The Chamber’s Ribfest is about more than bragging rights. These community events help bring our business community, residents and organizations together to share, laugh, network, compete, shop and relax. The Chamber is very proud to work with the Downtowners Association and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to make Independence Day weekend a place for us to come together – as a community.

Enjoy the food, the fun, the music, family and friends this weekend and be smart and safe when celebrating America’s birthday.

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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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Level UP 2015 – Leap of faith or filling a void?

Shortly after taking the reins of the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, and after buying an engine block heater, I took assessment of which programs and services were bringing value to our members, and which ones were left over as relics of chamber days gone by. The second part of that process is to ascertain what is missing in our program offerings that other chambers execute as a part of their program of work. Then it hit me like a Duncan Keith body check (Stanley Cup playoffs always invoke a hockey reference or two). We don’t have a business conference! About business stuff. In the fastest growing city in the US.

Jeff and Scott during the ‘Aha!’ moment

I contacted Jeff Zarling at DAWA Solutions Group ,who produces quality seminars as part of his business, and started talking to him about what the Chamber should be offering its Members regarding management, networking. and leadership information. One “Mad Men” thought led to another and poof, Level UP 2015 was hatched. “Take Your Business and Career to the Next Level – Level UP!”

We needed a top notch keynote speaker to kick it off. The new Culver’s Frozen Custard store broke ground last November, and CEO and co-founder of Culver’s, Craig Culver, was in Williston to participate. I was bold enough to ask, and lucky that he had May 20 open on his schedule. The list of sessions was way longer than we had time alotted, so we narrowed it to some big topics that hit every business in the Williston area:

  • KEYNOTE: Craig Culver, “Seizing Opportunity While Maintaining Your Corporate Values”
  • Human Resources – Addressing the People Problem
  • Training & Education – Positioning Your People for Success
  • Personal and Professional Development – Lifelong Learning & Growth
  • Healthy, Wealthy & Wise – How Your Health Impacts Your Success
  • Guts, Growth & Glory – Business Development in the Bakken
  • Critical Connections – Networking in the 21st Century

Then we needed to assemble a panel of experts on each topic, which was fairly easy since both Jeff and I make it a priority to network and get to know people and companies in Williston who are making things happen. One day, six hot topics here in the region, 23 sponsorship opportunities, and 300 people.

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value

— Albert Einstein

The value of this business conference is pretty simple. Bring together peer experts to discuss and solve problems we all face doing business in an emerging market, make attendance and sponsorship affordable, and provide more value than is expected. We partnered with someone who does this for a living (DAWA Solutions), project modest revenues, and believe our timing is perfect.

Is our Chamber overreaching on something like this – at this particular moment in our economic cycle?

We’ll find out on May 20…

  — Sjm

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No ‘Easy Button’ for Chamber programs and events

Private nonprofit organizations like professional societies, trade associations and chambers of commerce depend on several resources to produce events like we did on St. Patrick’s Day – our “ShamRockin the Bakken Taste of Williston.”

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Bill Falcon and the Good Medicine Band entertain Williston’s ShamRockin’ the Bakken on St. Patrick’s Day.

Some organizations are large enough to have an events planning staff. One or more paid staff members to plan, budget and execute community and organizational events.An event that requires three to six months worth of planning doesn’t happen just because it worked last year. It is not uncommon to find a professional meeting planner in one of these staff positions, one who holds the credentials of “CMP” or Certified Meeting Planner.

Another option is to partner with an events planning professional or company. There are companies and individuals whose sole business mission is to plan, organize and execute events. This option takes resources (read: money), but does free up staff to conduct other business to meet the organization’s missions. Managing the planning and execution of an event, while working with an event planner, can yield benefits for both the group hosting the event, and the contracted event planner.

Whether there is a full time staff charged with events, or a contracted events planner, a nonprofit organization still relies on two major things: both of which are required for successful community activities and events – volunteers and sponsors. Both of these critical components to a successful event have something in common.

Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.
– Peter Drucker

Why doesn’t your church committee or school play have more volunteers? There are lots of great companies in this town who should be sponsoring or helping with our event, why is it so difficult? The answer is the same…

It’s all about the fit.

Is time precious for everyone today? Yes. Are companies and corporations financially stretched? Yes. However, nonprofits and organizations for centuries have been missing the point in looking for quality, committed volunteers and sponsors. They mistakenly send out blanket news releases and emails and posts that sound like: ‘Looking for committee members;’ or ‘Sponsorships available.’ What are those messages missing? SPECIFICS!

What’s the difference in these two approaches?

Q:  Would you like to serve on the events committee?
Q:   I need your skills for six months to help make our annual meeting a success, and this is why. Can I count on you?
The key to the second question is you gave the volunteer a definitive timeline and explained why you need their skills. The same goes for a sponsorship request.

Q:   Would you like to sponsor our meeting again?
Q:   Mr. Smith, I know you like the downtown businesses, and your company sells to many of them. Our monthly lunch meeting has an opening for a sponsor at $250. We’d love to partner with you on this event.
Again, the difference is specifics and best fit.


Speaking of good fits, I have to give a shout out to the Chamber’s Staff and our volunteers who made the ShamRockin’ the Bakken Taste of Williston a fantastic success on St. Patrick’s day. Our major sponsors came through in the clutch and helped the community be Irish at least for a day! We’re testing out a new online project management system called “Basecamp.com.” So far, everyone seems to enjoy using it to keep in touch with our event planning.

One happy Leprechaun!

One happy Leprechaun!

A quick ‘by the numbers’ summary of the event: We had 17 food vendors, more than 350 people through the door, a couple of Leprechaun-sponsors (Pat and Jackie!), and one shaved head (thanks Ken and the donation to St. Baldrick’s charity!).

A big Chamber of Commerce thank you goes out to:
Murphy Motors, The Grand Williston Hotel & Conference Center, American Petroleum Institute-Williston Chapter, Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau, KUMV-TV, Cherry Creek Radio, American State Bank & Trust (for the Dublin Boys Choir) and Mail Box Solutions Plus.

The next time your group, organization is looking for volunteers or sponsors, the more specific you can be with your request, the better chance you may have with landing that next superstar volunteer or title sponsor for your event.

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