Mission & Meeting

Reflecting back to my first blog as Chamber President, I talked a lot about being excited and overwhelmed, which I suppose is appropriate for starting a new job.  A year and a half later, however, I still find myself excited and overwhelmed, only with a slightly different twist.  I am still excited to be working at the chamber, facilitating the programs and events that connect and engage our members.  I enjoy building those relationships in the community and connecting people.  As our area continues to grow, there are even more occasions to do so.  I am excited at the numerous and increasing opportunities to advocate and serve the business community.  Yet, I am still overwhelmed at the scope of this as more and more issues come across my desk.  I am overwhelmed at the generous volunteers and committee members, which give of their time and abilities which enable us to do so much more that would be impossible with just our small but dedicated staff.  As we prepare for our Annual Awards Banquet (in 10 DAYS!!), I wish we could give out more awards and recognize more people – we had over 28 nominations this year!  It is a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community.

Back in July of 2016 I wrote: “As I continue on the weeks ahead, I invite any and all feedback from our members…stop by, call or email me.  Keep an eye out for all the great things you are used to as well as the new things to come… I trust that I’ll continue to be excited and overwhelmed.”

True.  I always welcome feedback.  One of my biggest challenges is finding the time to meet with members.  There are still some I have not yet gotten the chance to visit.  I also titled the blog: Same mission.  Also true.  Our focus remains on our mission:  the Champion of the Williston Area United Business Community.  For over 110 years, the Chamber has been in the Williston area advocating for business interests, promoting prosperity for the businesses and likewise promoting the general welfare of the area.  One of the common misconceptions I have heard out there is that we are division of the city.  We of course have a very close working relationship with the city and county, however, at our core, the Chamber distinguishes itself in order to advocate for the businesses.  While often we have the same objective as the city, other times, we do not.  And likely, if something is impacting you, it is impacting others.  As a membership organization, the Chamber has a strong voice – it is the over 500 businesses united verses one person or business.  The Chamber is working on your behalf while you are working on your business.  We keep your interests near and dear to our heart and constantly work so that you don’t have to, especially alone.  We know how busy you are.

Reflecting on where we go from here, it is all about our focus.  The backbone of all that we do is our mission.  In 2018, our strategic focus, while tweaked a bit, continues to be focused on improving in a few key areas: Advocacy, programs and services, strategic partnerships, and organizational excellence.  Plan to attend our Annual Meeting on January 23rd to find out more.  And as always, please reach out – email, call or stop by!  We will continue to visit you, and of course, advocate for the united business community.



The secrets of a good resolution

The impending new year usually gets people talking about resolutions. Personally, I am not one for the typical new year’s resolutions…I mean why wait for January 1st to make the changes in your life that you feel are important? There is something to be said about having a deadline to get started on a goal, however. Especially a deadline that is only days away.

For many, the new year seems like a fresh start and so often they decide on a ‘lose weight’ or ‘get healthy’ sort of resolution. It’s why the number of gym memberships spike in January. Those are great resolutions, so why is it that within a few weeks, those same gyms see a drop in people attending?

Besides having a start date, the trick to a good resolution is that it is not just a wish. It should be measurable. Specific. Resolutions are firm decisions, to do or not to do something; the action of solving a problem. Just like other goals you may have for yourself, you have to know HOW you are going to get there. It is the difference between saying ‘In 2018, I am going to go to the gym more’ and saying ‘For the next 4 weeks, I will be going to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays for 30 minutes over the lunch hour’. Measurable. Specific.

One also has to have the right attitude toward them. Resolutions are only as good as the belief that they will be successful. Believing that you can and reminding yourself of the concrete steps you are taking can be powerful in overcoming the cynicism that the change is too overwhelming. Baby steps. Continuing daily. Abraham Lincoln has said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Have faith in yourself. Celebrate the small successes. Remind yourself where you are headed and that you are progressing.

Another trick to resolutions is to have the disposition that they are life changing. The desired result of a resolution is usually permanent. If your resolution was to lose 10 pounds and you achieved it, you will not likely say to yourself “Well great! I did it. Now, I can just gain those right back.” I think the reasons most new years resolutions fail, is because people don’t view them as the long-term changes that they need to be.

“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them” Benjamin Franklin said. If we are honest, most of us know what it is that we lack or need to change in our lives. Take time to consider and make a specific, measurable resolution this year to prove my theories correct. Don’t quit because it gets hard and don’t be afraid to enjoy the small good right now. When you look back over the year, you will see the journey was worth it.


One Month to Go…

The Chamber Annual Banquet is only one month away and if you are not already getting excited for it, you should be!  This semi-formal event is our yearly time to get together as a full membership:  to celebrate the year, to recognize community leaders, to enjoy fellowship, a delicious meal, and of course some entertainment to round out the evening!   A change in venue is just the beginning…we have a great evening planned for you.

January 19, 2018, at McCody Concrete, the VIP Reception for our sponsors and special guests will be held in the upstairs of McCody Concrete at 5:30pm.  Doors downstairs to the bays will open at 6pm for cocktail hour and the silent auction begins.

It is a tradition that while we fundraise for the Chamber’s yearly efforts, we also give back a portion of our silent auction proceeds to one of our non-profits.  This year, the Fred & Clara Eckert Foundation for Children (Eckert Youth Homes) is our recipient, so come prepared to be generous!  If your business would like to donate something for the silent auction – please let us know!

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford and Miss North Dakota, Lizzie Jensen, are our special guests this year and our entertainment for the evening is Humorist Devin Henderson.  But my favorite part of the evening is giving out the awards.  The Chamber has a long history of recognizing community and business leaders for the admirable work they have done.  While we only give out six awards each year, the 28 nominations we received this year are a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community.   Not to mention the vast list of past winners, many of whom are still contributing to the community to this day.

And you can’t forget about the meal!  This year, we will have three different Chamber members providing the appetizers, main course and dessert.  Just another chance for our members to highlight how remarkable they are!  It is going to be a great night!

So now that you are thoroughly excited for the banquet this year, please make sure you get your tickets! If your business want to sponsor a table, contact us today as we have only 3 table sponsors left!

I cannot wait to see you all there!


I’m not crazy…

I realize that last week I was talking about 2018 already, however, I don’t want to overlook the last few weeks of 2017!  The older I get the faster this time of year seems to go.  With all that needs to be done (decorations, presents, baking, holiday parties and more) the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas just seem to fly by!

Don’t let 2017 go quietly into the dark night without connecting one last time.  Networking.  Connections.  It’s what we do best at the Chamber!  Next Thursday, December 14th will be our last Business after Hours for 2017.   No doubt, it will be just as fun as usual – if not more so as everyone gets in the holiday spirit!  Networking coupled with a little friendly competition, conversation, food, and prizes are sure to warm you up in this cold month.  Remember to bring all the networking cards you have collected this year.  We will have our drawing for $100 in Chamber Bucks that you can use locally for your Christmas shopping!

Networking Card.JPG

Some synonyms for crazy are: silly, wild, fanatical, outrageous, ridiculous, passionate, enthusiastic, devoted.  Ok.  Well then maybe I am a little crazy…but the good kind of crazy.  And while our networking events may not be crazy, they are fun – ask anyone who came last month!

So, even though December is a hectic time of year, please plan to come out and join us next week at our after hours.  I hope to see you all one more time in 2017!


Who’s ready for 2018?!?!

I know, I know.  Thanksgiving was just last week and it’s not even December yet, but here at the Chamber we’ve been gearing up for 2018 for a few weeks now.  Hopefully you’ve saved the date for our Annual Banquet (1/19) and Annual Meeting (1/23) – two very important events within the Chamber calendar year.

December is such a busy month for most – Company Christmas parties and/or get-togethers with friends, holiday shopping (locally!) for both food and presents, traveling to or hosting family.  For us at the Chamber, December will be busy, but busy working on things to come in the new year:

  • Awards Banquet: my favorite part of the Chamber world where we honor people in the community for all that they have done, plus enjoy have an evening of entertainment and socializing.
  • Annual Meeting: see what our focus in 2018 will be, some new things, and some classics.
  • Membership Investment: keep an eye out for your 2018 investment in the Chamber.  We depend upon your support to continue to do all that we can for the business community!  We’re so grateful for you!
  • Sponsor guides: Bekka, Laura, Rachel and I have been busy trying to get these out to all our past sponsors. Again, we are so grateful for your support!  Please contact the Chamber if you haven’t gotten one.  We have so many great opportunities all year round!

The Chamber’s tagline “where connections happen” is so fitting.  We have so many ways for you to be involved.  And if you haven’t found one that fits for you or your business – I’d love to hear from you!   Part of my focus is always improving what we offer to our members which includes changing things up and offering new things.  I plan to continue to do that in the new year.  Keep your eye out for those new things.  Additionally, we aim to make our signature events even better!  Plan to Connect, Engage, Grow, and Lead with the Chamber in a new way in the new year.

It has been said, “whether we want them or not, the new year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the new year will bring new opportunities”

May we embrace all the challenges and opportunities that the new year brings.  The Chamber is getting ready, are you?


Behold the glass! Is it half full or half empty?

It’s a question famously used to gauge if someone is an optimist or a pessimist.  Someone who has a heart full of gratitude, however, is just thankful to have a cup!

My mother instilled in (forced!) me at a very young age, to write thank you cards… and I did it (kicking and screaming most times!) so often that now it is a habit I cannot break.  Nor would I want to – it’s getting close to becoming a lost art in our highly digital age.  William Arthur Ward is credited as saying “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”.  What better way to express your gratitude than to ‘snail mail’ something handwritten?  Maybe I am old fashioned, but in my opinion a text or email thank you, while sincere, just doesn’t have the same sparkle.

I try to instill in my kids that same grateful attitude.  Every time I hear them complain, I rephrase it and make them repeat it back to me in a thankful way.  “I wanted pizza!” turns to “thank you, God, that I have food to eat today and a table and chairs at which to sit comfortably and eat!”  They probably hate it.  But they will thank me one day, or at least be thankful the way I am for my mother.  Also, my mother made the best pumpkin pie.  Which leads me to think about Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.  Not just because you get to eat delicious turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, but because it seems to put everyone in a thankful frame of mind.  When I take time to call to mind my countless blessings, my heart fills with joy!


“It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy!”

On a cold day like today, it is easy to be thankful for heat.  Likewise, I am thankful for life and breath and my family.  In addition, I am thankful for so many other things:  the countless people in this community that truly care about the future of our area, our businesses, and our citizens; our members banding together to promote the local economy; those in the city and county making important infrastructure changes; and those in the many service clubs (like rotary) across town who constantly serve others.  I am happy to be in a position to help the business community flourish in this ‘history in the making’ time to be living in Western North Dakota.

I am also particularly thankful for the Chamber staff, the Board of Directors, and all our committee volunteers – the Chamber wouldn’t be the same without you!

Thank you and may you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!


Top 10 Reasons to Stay In Town and Shop Williston This Holiday Season

Black Friday, the “official” start of the holiday shopping season, is only days away.  The Chamber has kicked off this day with their holiday lights parade for 23 years!

I typically like to start my holiday shopping sooner than Thanksgiving since I find the weeks before Christmas seem to fly by.  In spite of the fewer hours of daylight there seem to be more events and get togethers this time of year.  Some of my favorites include cookie exchanges with my friends.  But as it is typical with the best of intentions, I rarely get any holiday shopping done prior and it’s probably a good thing since the best deals haven’t yet emerged!   This holiday season, take time to remember the buying power you have to continue to make our community stronger.   Need more reasons to stay in town?  See the Chamber’s top ten list:

  1. PARADE on November 24th! The Chamber’s 23rd Annual Holiday Lights parade starts at 6pm at the National Guard Armory and runs down main street ending with the lighting up of Harmon Park. This year’s theme is Winter Wonderland!  Candy is always abundant, and the lighted floats are especially creative – don’t miss Santa at the end on the Fire Truck!
  2. Holiday Lights Drive – at Spring Lake Park between November 25th and December 31st only $5 a car
  3. Send some North Dakota love to other states – Shop Williston to send unique gifts to your out of town family or friends. The Visitors Center makes gift baskets containing ND made products and many shops have their own exclusive brands
  4. It’s the best time to use those Chamber Bucks!
  5. Small Business Saturday – November 25th – find great deals from your local small businesses.
  6. Classes – many stores now offer a great experience – not just shopping for things we may want or need but experiencing the products available to you and allowing fun times with friends.
  7. Shorter Lines/Smaller Crowds – enough said!
  8. Drive time (Save gas!) most stores are accessible within 15 minutes – after shopping you will still have time to eat out at our many local restaurants.
  9. Try things on, test things out – easier returns than online!
  10. Customer Service! – get to know and interact with your friends and neighbors…often allowing you to get to know the shop owners and impact what you can purchase here.

Williston is such a warm community despite the crisp winter weather that is upon us.  Please remember that you have the power to preserve our prosperous, historic, and unique community.  And it’s incredibly simple: Patronize local businesses.

As one local store owner put it “When you support local businesses you support a dream. You help keep quality health care professionals, law enforcement personnel, teachers, and jobs in our community.  Friends don’t let friends shop online. Think local. Buy local. #shopwillistonwide”

Think local – buy local.  Especially this holiday season.  I bet you will be surprised at what you find!


Chamber Bucks – long history of supporting local businesses

Some of you may be more familiar with Chamber Bucks than others.  The Chamber has been using these for decades to support the local economy.  Chamber Bucks look like and are as good as cash to be spent at local Chamber member businesses.  They are a great way to encourage buying locally.  I have blogged and written about the importance of supporting our local businesses since I started with the Chamber, but I don’t think it is something I will ever stop doing.  It is what the Chamber will continue to promote and advocate for:  Supporting local businesses who support our way of life.  When you buy locally, more of each dollar you spend stays local.  It helps pay the wages of the cashier who helped you or is collected as local sales tax revenue and given back to the community to help schools, roads, police, firefighters, parks, and other parts of the Williston Area that you know and love.

Chamber Bucks

What better way to support this community than to utilize Chamber Bucks – they are like gift cards infused with love of our little part of the world!  With the holiday season fast approaching, think about your employees, your friends, your neighbors – give them Chamber Bucks as bonuses or Christmas gifts.  A gift of Chamber Bucks keeps giving back to our local community even after it is spent!   You are also supporting local Chamber member businesses.  When a business joins the Chamber, it shows they are committed to this community and that they care about the success of the local economy and the events and programs the Chamber provides.  Using Chamber Bucks is a way to say ‘thank you’ to these businesses.

And it’s so easy!  You can purchase Chamber Bucks by stopping by or contacting the Chamber.  After they are used, Chamber member businesses simply return the Chamber Bucks to the Chamber to be redeemed.   But I encourage you to think ahead!  Small Business Saturday is coming up next month.  November 25th this year is the day set aside especially for celebrating and supporting local businesses.  The very ones that you are accustomed to going to for your purchases.  Kick off the holiday shopping season right by getting your chamber bucks now!  Offer them as gifts this year and see how much stronger our community can become!



It’s About Time!!

The Williston Area Chamber has seen many changes over the last decade.  I venture to say that perhaps it has seen more changes than Chambers typically have.  Under the direction of the Board of Directors in 2014, a very solid strategic plan had been put in place.  Its goals include:

  • Strengthen the influence and reputation of the Chamber through bold and thoughtful advocacy and public policy initiatives
  • Develop a compelling portfolio of programs and services to better engage members and serve member needs
  • Enhance the opportunity for building the regional economy through strategic partnerships
  • Structure the chamber for success through organizational excellence

I believe since 2014, the Chamber has done a good job working on these goals:

  • Reestablishing our Government Affairs committee, hosting informative Candidate forums and Eggs & Issues breakfasts, and Legislative days in Bismarck
  • Annual Awards Banquet and Meeting, Taste of Williston, Ribfest, Level UP, Leadership Williston, Lemonade Day, and Business After Hours and more
  • Working closely with Williston Economic Development, Job Services, Williston Regional Economic Development Corp., Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Downtowner’s Association, the Greater North Dakota Chamber and others
  • Updated Chamber By-Laws, Staff and Committee policies, and Board of Directors handbook

They say that a good strategic plan lifespan is only about 3-5 years.  Less than 3 is too short term thinking and more than 5 is unrealistic especially in a rapidly evolving economic environment like ours.  So, it’s about that time – I have been managing the Chamber’s execution of these goals over the course of the past year.  Looking forward to 2018, we want to be sure our ‘road map’ of where the organization is headed is revised to where it needs to be.  Do we need to add a new road or two?  Should we turn around because of a detour?  The strategies and steps we take may, like the roads around here, need to be updated in a new, broader long-range plan.  And it’s at this very time that we rely on your feedback.  The Chamber exists to serve you.  I believe our mission powerfully states our ultimate goal – to champion the area’s united business community.  But how we work toward that goal can always be improved.

I ask for your brief time to let us know your thoughts.  Keep an eye out for our member survey – complete it online or simply email or call the Chamber with your input.  As the Chamber Staff and Board of Directors seeks to update its strategic plan, it is essential to hear from you.  Thank you in advance!


Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Community

This community continues to warm my heart.  It is filled with generous people:  generous business owners, employers, employees and citizens.  People who give of their time to volunteer, sit on boards, serve on city or county commissions, or who donate to the latest fundraiser.

The Chamber’s strategic plan is of course centered around business.  Advocating for businesses and a business-friendly environment and offering programs and services to help businesses thrive.  Commerce is crucial to any community.  It is why I continue to mention the importance of supporting our local businesses (keep your eye out for information on Small Business Saturday coming up soon).  The Chamber helps you highlight your business: we love to mention all the good things happening to our members, especially on social media, plus we have affordable advertising and numerous sponsorship opportunities.   But the Chamber is also about the people and connections.  The relationships you can build and develop by being involved in the Chamber can only help grow your business and you often can’t put a price on that.  It’s the people of this community that make it what it is.  Additionally, a principal advantage our community has going for it is the partnerships.  Ones that have been established for a while and the ones that are developing and growing stronger.  We become stronger when we collaborate.

Last week, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be asked to join a team to run the Bakken X-trek put on by the Williston Parks and Recreation District.  It was a stretch for me to run the 5K and attempt to go through the many (often dirty!) obstacles.  It taught me a few things – or at least reminded me:

  1. You can keep going long after you think you can’t (I blogged about this before but it is worth repeating).
  2. Bruises don’t last long, but the accomplished feeling of completing something does.
  3. I could not have done it without my team. The Williston All-Stars invited me on their team and while I may have been their weakest link, they encouraged me along the way and helped me over some of the toughest obstacles.  An outstretched hand is a wonderful thing!

That last one is most important:  Working as a team and cultivating partnerships in this community is key to our success as a region.

The Chamber partners with Small Business Development Center, Williston Economic Development, TrainND, Williston State College, Job Services of ND, and many others – all to strengthen and unify our business community!  I am confident in our direction.  With the boom, this community was forced to make necessary improvements to roads, water, and other things we often take for granted.  The city and county leaders had the forethought to make sure they considered not just the immediate needs but those in the future as well.  The Lewis and Clark bridge project, water treatment improvements, the new water resource recovery facility, expansions to landfill, law enforcement and fire stations are just a few that have been or will recently be completed.  We are well poised to continue our growth.  Particularly with the new XWA airport project underway.

The Chamber stands for business and we stand for this community.  The Chamber will continue to be the champion for this united business community.


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