Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring! And another change…

This week I blogged how spring is finally here, and this weekend’s weather should leave no doubt that it is finally upon us.  The grass turning green, buds sprouting on trees, the baby calves out in the fields, the sunshine warming our faces and our moods:  nature has a way of reminding us about change.  It reminds us that it comes regardless of what we do.  Like the warm weather after a long cold winter, nature reminds us that change is welcomed.  I have often blogged and written about change because as humans we often resist change and for many it is a difficult reality.  As soon as you get used to one change, another comes.  And often while the ‘ink is still drying’ on your attempts to deal with that change, more may come unexpectedly.   It can be frustrating, but as a good friend pointed out to me, it’s important to think about cheese.

Who moved my cheese? is a business fable illustrating attitudes and actions that people can take when confronted with change.  A good short read, I highly recommend for anyone who hasn’t read it.  The point is, though, that change while hard, should be expected, welcomed, and sometimes chosen.

Here in the Williston market, we should be particularly accustomed to it.  With the remarkable population growth and the infrastructure projects needed to accompany that, there have been and continue to be countless changes.  Some small, like an updated storefront, some large like the US2 road construction last summer.  It was hard to wait patiently through these seasons where roads were being created, widened, adding lights for safety and traffic flow, and more.  Some people may not have even known about the water treatment plant until it was completed but you were directly impacted whether you realize or not.

Back to change.  This week, I informed my Board of Directors and my staff of my resignation from my position as President of the Chamber as of May 23rd.  And I wanted to take this time to tell our members and the community.   I wish I could tell you all in person how I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the business community and lead such a great organization.  It is bittersweet for me, knowing that I leave while there is still work to be done, but I look ahead toward the opportunity to contribute to the community at another important organization, our hospital – CHI St. Alexius Health’s Foundation.

My time at the Chamber has been full of change.  But change is good.  And while a change in leadership at the Chamber may be accompanied by changes in other leadership throughout the community after the results of election day on June 12th, I have full confidence that we are headed in the right direction.  Last week I also blogged about how well positioned we are for the future.  I could write another whole article or two about how that is true despite our area’s growing pains…maybe another time!

The Chamber has a strong focus on its mission to ‘Champion the United Business Community’.  It has great staff and a strong board, and I am confident that it will remain steadfast on its path to advocate and work for the business community.  Our valuable programs, events, and committees will continue to provide opportunities to connect and grow your business.  The Chamber’s strong partnerships with other entities will continue to unify us.

Because I know and see it’s potential, I will persist in promoting and serving this wonderful growing, evolving community, just in a different role.

-Janna

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Spring…Finally!

Although today isn’t one of the sunniest of days, there is no doubt that spring is finally upon us.  The snow has melted, and last weekend was so beautiful I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy being outside.  My son has a good start on his farmer’s tan already.  And although today could be considered a bit gloomy, the forecast for this weekend is absolutely amazing.  As 17th century American poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet aptly penned “If we had no winter, spring would not be so pleasant”.

Just like the improved moods of everyone living around here, the increased activity around the Williston area is tangible.  Even the cows having their calves remind us that change and new growth is not only inevitable but it is welcomed – just like spring after a long winter!  And there’s nothing better than good old nature to remind us of that.

At the Chamber, we are busy with the candidate forums this week.  Even though the results of the elections are yet to be determined, I find myself excited to be involved in the process and the possibilities that lie ahead.  No matter what the outcome, it is refreshing to see new people and new faces becoming involved and running for these positions.  Our elected officials have an extremely important job to do and are responsible to our businesses and the residents of this community.

Despite what some people (not familiar with our area) may erroneously believe, the Williston area is far from ever busted.  It is poised for the future.  Our very growth alone is evident in the birth rate, our school enrollment, and the plentiful job opportunities.  But it doesn’t stop with numbers.  It’s about the people.  It is about our evolving community and shaping our future to what we want it to be.   Which is especially vital for those in positions elected to represent us to remember.  The Williston area may have had a few growing pains along the way, but I have full confidence that we are on the right track.   After the long hard ‘winter’ of being hunkered down while infrastructure improvements were completed, our business community has endured and found efficiencies.  I trust that our elected officials will do the same.

I cannot urge you enough to be involved in the process of electing those who will represent our community.  Make your voice be heard on June 12th and then sit back and enjoy the pleasant spring.

-Janna

Almost Election Time!

One of the privileges of being an American is the right to vote.  We are blessed to live in a county where our government is run by elected representatives.  I would venture further in saying that is more than a privilege – it is our duty to vote for these representatives.  And while not everyone may agree upon who is elected, the important process is there nonetheless.  Come June 12th, just a few short weeks away, are some important elections for our local community.

Being involved in our local elections are just as important for our community as supporting our local businesses.  Therefore, I urge you to get informed and vote and your Chamber is here to help!  The Chamber’s Government Affairs committee in conjunction with the Williston Herald will be hosting forums for voters to get to know some of the candidates in the upcoming elections.  Three forums will be held at the Williston ARC from 6-8pm and will feature those running in races where there are more candidates than open seats.   Please plan to attend one or all of the forums:

  • April 30th – District #1 State Representative – Republican
  • May 1st – District #1 County Commission and City Commission Seats
  • May 3rd – District #1 and District #8 School Board

Questions for the candidates can be submitted online.

To determine your voting district for the County Click Here.

You input your address in the search bar in the top left of the page. It will immediately show you what district you reside in. Then, if you click anywhere on the map it will show a new window that will list your polling location. Scrolling through using the arrows will also display what city limits you are in as well as contact information for your district’s County Commissioner.

Again, our upcoming forums are not for all the races – only those with more candidates than open seats.  We will be hosting more forums in the Fall before the general election.

I think it is wonderful to see so many interested candidates.  It reinforces what I already know about the potential for our community’s progress!   Participate in supporting those that will directly impact the growth and evolution of our community.   I urge you to be involved, get informed and get out and vote.

-Janna

Almost graduation time!

One of the more discreet programs that the Chamber runs is the Leadership Williston program.  It silently transpires over the course of 6 months using the community as a classroom.  It teaches leadership skills, develops awareness of issues and challenges facing our region, inspires participants to influence others, and motivates them to become involved in the community.

Although it may be more intimate in nature, having only 10-15 participants per year, it is still impactful.  Over a dozen influential people in the community arrange different days which inform the participants on various issues and topics specific to our economy.  Developed and implemented by the Leadership & Education Committee of the Chamber, the LW program’s history of developing leaders dates back over 20 years.  Along with the instructional part of the program, the participants each tackle a project.  They often identify a need or lack in the community or focus on something that may be near and dear to their heart.  Some past projects include:

  • Marketplace for Kids
  • Frisbee Golf at Spring Lake Park
  • Dog Park at Spring Lake Park
  • Junior Achievement
  • Little Muddy Recreation Area
  • Childcare at Good Shephard Lutheran Church
  • Keep Williston Clean
  • Lemonade Day
  • Williston Parks & Rec Trail System
  • Downtown Improvements
  • Numerous clothing drives, kid’s camps, walks/5K’s for various fundraising efforts

This is just to list a few!  There are many more projects, some lasting, some once and done, still others in progress or continued by others.  Yet, every single one has made an impact on this community.  The full list of alumni cannot be listed here either, but many alumni now sit on boards around town or have employment as executive directors and executive vice presidents.  Even a current City Commissioner can claim LW Alumni status!

At the Chamber, we are very proud of this program, its legacy, and its future.  Our Leadership Williston Alumni are influencing and advancing our community.  Consider attending the graduation at the end of this month to learn about some projects and how you can help.  Consider applying yourself or having one of your employees apply to the program next year.  While a significant time commitment, you are certain to receive a benefit for investing your time to complete the program.  Not to mention the value you provide the community – when you help others you inevitably help yourself as well! To learn more, you can visit our website and see some of last years projects.

It has been said that true success and leadership is about influencing others to achieve their own greatness.  I consider the Chamber’s Leadership Williston program a lasting success.  I look forward to being a part of honoring the newest alumni for their hard work and dedication to themselves and this community.

-Janna

Official from the Mayor!

Last week, Mayor Klug proclaimed June 16, 2018 Lemonade Day Williston.  This will be the fourth year that kids in our community have been learning how to run a business through this fantastic program.  This year, we have another chance to empower our young entrepreneurs and teach life skills.  Additionally, we are excited about some changes which are sure to improve upon an already successful program.

  • Contests – a new judging method will be implemented for all participants. Contests include:
    • Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Best Stand
    • Best Tasting
  • Best Tasting will be judged on June 12th – participants will have a chance to practice their recipe before opening to the public. They also get a chance to present their business plan to the judges.
  • BBQ – the kids get to celebrate their success through the program and day of selling at a fun picnic on June 26th. Awards for the contests and prizes for many participants will be handed out at the BBQ.  A very special thanks to Williston Community Builders who have supported this program by providing the food and cooking for the BBQ each year.

More details on the program will follow as we get closer to Lemonade Day, but first, kids need to register!  Participants can start signing up for this free program on April 16th  – you stop by the Chamber or visit https://www.lemonadeday.org/williston. We will also have a booth at Kids Day Out April 21st at the UMV Fairgrounds.

The foremost objective of Lemonade Day is to inspire and educate our youth to become productive members of our society – the business leaders, social advocates, volunteers, and forward-thinking citizens of tomorrow.  It is a wonderful community event that not only teaches our youth but develops our community.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to be involved before, I highly suggest you do this year!  Sign up your kid or sign up your business as a safe stand location and simply come out to support the entrepreneurs of our community.

As the Mayor said in his proclamation:  all residents of the greater Williston area can participate and have a role: either selling or buying lemonade on June 16, 2018.

-Janna

Open… Together.

Last Sunday, our area retailers united together to be open for a “Shop 1st Sunday” promotion. It was a concept brought about by members of our retail committee and turned out to be a big success. The weather even seemed to hold out for this first attempt. It emerged because people were open. The business owners opened their stores, true, but first they opened their viewpoint. They were open to alternative ideas, open to change, open to trying something new. Now, they are more open for their customers. The success, however, was not simply because they were open, but because they worked together to accomplish this. I often write about the Chamber’s mission “The Champion of Williston’s United Business Community” not to tote the company line, if you will, but by virtue of my belief in its truth and our purpose. Especially the ‘united’ part, in as much as when businesses work together, united with one voice, we become stronger. I keep talking about it considering it critical to our success as a community. The first Shop 1st Sunday confirms this for me and is just the beginning.

Why support local businesses? Because they are your neighbors and friends, or they employ your neighbors and friends. Because they are here with important goods or services when you need them. Because they help support your way of life – with their taxes going towards the roads, police and firefighters, etc. When our local businesses thrive, we all benefit. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy and our community and we cannot survive without them.

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Member Relations Manager, Rachel Lordemann, was excited to see so many people out shopping and enjoying Shop 1st Sunday. She reported our retailers were pleasantly surprised at the number of customers they saw on Sunday and is confident that participation in the event will only grow in the coming months. We plan to continue to add participating businesses and get more people shopping Williston Wide on Sundays.

The result of people being open in more ways than one is a win win…well, win. A trifecta: for the business owner, the shopper, and for the whole community. We are proud that the Chamber can be the driving force for this. As after all, it is our mission.

-Janna

Snowflakes

If I have seen you in the past few days, you’ve probably heard me lament how much I am over winter and ready for spring.  But the other day, I wasn’t expecting snow when a brief and light dusting caused me to pause.  I happened to be driving when those large flakes hit my windshield, you know the ones in which you can see the intricacies and details of the shapes of the snowflakes.  It made me smile and as I considered their uniqueness and beauty, I temporarily forgot how cold it was outside.  I recalled something I had heard as a child: no two snowflakes are alike.  In my google attempts to verify this as fact, however, I was inundated with the new slang definitions of snsnowflakeowflake – an insult actually – and some even broadening the insult to a whole generation.  How terrible.  To take something beautiful and unique and turn it to something negative.  While it is accurate that snowflakes can be fragile, it’s not the whole picture.  By themselves, snowflakes are still beautiful and together they can be both breathtaking and a force to be reckoned with.  Just think of those snowcapped mountains which artists and skiers love.  Or how about the flurries turned to inches turned into feet of snow which will literally stop peoples’ daily life for a bit.

So I say, forget the slang!  I will keep on believing that it is true: no two snowflakes are alike.  Just like people and just like businesses.  Each are unique, and they are strong when unified.

Small businesses make up over 70% of our Chamber membership.  They can be combined into categories as broad as retail or as focused as mortgage services.  They may have the same category, but they are all distinctive.  Add in the other 30% of larger businesses and you have the full Chamber membership – all businesses important to our local economy and united with one strong Chamber voice.

-Janna

When you look at a field of dandelions, do you see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes?

As creatures of habit, we can sometimes get stuck doing the same things and thinking the same thoughts.  This is not always a bad thing, depending on the habit.  But it could prove to be troublesome when our habits are keeping us in a constant place with the unchanged perspective.  It doesn’t allow us the chance to adjust, grow, or improve.  If you have been following my writing, you know that my personal tagline since I started at the Chamber is “always improving”.  It is something that I constantly keep in the back of my mind.  How can we improve upon what we do and why we do it?  How are we bringing value to our membership and the business community?  What else can we do?

They say you can change your life when you change your habits.  In fact, there are numerous books and YouTube videos on it.  Even a small change such as simply driving to work on a different road can open your eyes to things you don’t normally see or maybe even to what you didn’t even know was there.  Try it!  Seek out the new, changed, or different offerings in the community.

At the Chamber, we are adding new and improved possibilities: besides our new Network before 9 (next one is February 27th), another new opportunity we’ve identified is for consumers.  We’ve been preaching the importance of shopping local and now you’ll have more of an opportunity to do so.  Next month we will begin our ‘Shop First Sundays’ promotion – where our area retailers will open specific hours on the 1st Sunday of every month.  You can get out of the mindset that shopping must happen anywhere but here in your own town!   You get to save gas and time and find the great treasures that are here locally.

Perspective is defined as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a way of considering something.  Do you see dandelions as weeds or as wishes?  I believe that changing your perspective can lead to a change in habit.

I also believe our area is in a unique position to take advantage of the growth and utilize the possibilities…the ‘thousands of wishes’ out there.  With the right perspective, hard work, good strategies, and input from our members, our community will reach its great potential.  The Chamber is here to drive our business community to that potential, to serve you and your needs and to help us all have a more unified business community.  It is my vision, my mission as I see it in this role, and I am determined to use a new perspective to allow us all to ‘be better than yesterday’.

-Janna

Looking forward while remembering the past

They say you can’t change the past.  Look ahead.  Move forward.  And I agree.  However, every now and again, it is good to stop and look backward to see how far you have come.  Just a few short years ago, the Eagle Ridge golf course (Williston Country Club as it was called back then) was only a 9-hole course and one of the few places for fine dining in town but ended up in financial trouble.  Our 2014 Western Star Awardee, Dr. Salem Shahin, stepped in to help.  Dr. Shahin purchased the golf course and worked with the Corps of Engineers to turn it into an 18-hole golf course.  Additionally, at the time, there was a full-sized kitchen, but no one to run the restaurant.  He worked with potential clients and got a full-time chef in the restaurant.  This filled a big void for fine dining in Williston at the time.  This goes to prove again, the many people in this community who have stepped up to make it a better place – hence our long list of Western Star Awardees.  It’s why I love our awards banquet so much because we get to honor them and recognize their contributions.

This example also shows how far we as a city have come when it relates to the quality of life and what we have to offer our citizens.  In a town where there was only a handful of places to eat out, we now have an abundance of really great restaurants both fast food, for the quick meal or sit down places to enjoy a meal with friends or family.  We have chains and specialty restaurants in addition to the numerous caterers!  Our Chamber membership directory lists over 40 places to get food and that doesn’t include many of the bars in town.  This is where our annual Taste of Williston event came to exist.  It is a night where people from the community can come to one place and sample food from various restaurants and caterers in town.  Our local businesses will offer samples of their specialty food & drink items.

Our Taste of Williston event is a great way for them to gain exposure for their business, but also a great way for people in the community to see and ‘taste’ all that Williston currently has to offer!  I am still surprised when I talk to people in town and they do not realize that (for example) there is now an Italian restaurant in town – one that has been open for over a year!  This applies to people who have recently made Williston their home, but also for those who have been here for decades!  Williston has so much to offer in the sphere of dining, so make plans to attend our 2018 Taste of Williston.  Attendees get to vote for their favorite food/drink and there is a band for entertainment as well.  It falls near the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, when everyone is Irish for a day.  It is a fun and delicious night!  We look forward to seeing you there!

-Janna

Ask the right question, Get the right answers

The thing about asking questions is that you will get answers.  Not always the answers you are looking for, however.  My kids have taught me this precisely because their usual answer is “I don’t know”.  Why did you leave the toothpaste open?  Why didn’t you clear your plate after supper?  What were you thinking when you tried to ____? (paint the dogs toenails, create a twister with your spaghetti… You can fill in the blank!)  Kids have a fantastic way of keeping you grounded and in the moment.  I find that they are very literal.  And inquisitive.  Mostly because they are still learning about the world and the English language in all its intricacies.  My kids inspire me daily to stay focused on the here and now.  And to ask questions.

The trick is to ask the right question.  My new question to them is “what do you think I am going to say?”  It works famously!  I get their attention focused on the situation (example: the kitchen table) and ask, “what do you think I am going to say?”  Often there is no other words that I have to say, they know and fix the situation (example: clearing their plate) often with a grunt or a groan of course, but nonetheless, I got the right result

In my job, I enjoy asking questions and feel it is extremely important.  Why are we doing this?  Why are we doing it that way?  How can we partner?  What else can we do for our members?

Fourth quarter of 2017 as we were looking to update our strategic plan, we sent a survey to our membership and asked for feedback.  A good solid strategic focus for 2018 was determined by our staff and our board of directors out of that survey and additional member feedback.  It prompted us to start a new networking opportunity:  Network before 9!  We had our first meeting this morning at Gramma Sharon’s and we had a good turnout and even better connections.

Network Before Nine

We plan to continue this monthly – the 4th Tuesday of the month.  Our attendees got to make contacts, exchange cards, introduce themselves, their businesses and other things they are involved in and flat out just interact over coffee and caramel rolls.  Good old-fashioned face to face interaction.  What the Chamber does best – making connections happen.

I mentioned it at the meeting this morning but want to reiterate – the chamber is here for you, our members.  Any and all feedback is not only welcomed but requested and vital to our continuing to serve the business community.

So, some questions I have for you are:  What was the last Chamber event you attended?  If you haven’t attended any in a while, why not?  What can we add, change, or do differently that will help you?  What are your needs/frustrations?  What do you think the Chamber can do differently?

I cannot wait to hear some answers…

-Janna

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