This column marks the fourteenth such submission from the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce that I have had the honor to write. And for those of you who are dedicated and loyal readers of The Daily Star, I thank you for supporting local journalism and for putting up with my attempts at logical columns. It is fair, I think, that most of these efforts can be described in one word: aspirational.
And while that word is an accurate description of the mission of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce and our dedicated staff, Board of Directors, committee chairs and all of our nearly 400 members, there comes a time to evaluate what this organization has accomplished and not accomplished over the last fourteen months. Many folks have asked, “What does the Chamber do?”
One of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs contains the following chorus.
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song, tellin’ how you are gonna change right from wrong, ‘Cause if you really want to hear our views, You haven’t done nothin’.
From the song You Haven’t Done Nothin’, these are words we have all, at some point in our lives, thought to ourselves. Making promises, setting goals, and making a difference in the lives of others is not easy work. Saying what you will do is the easy part (see my fourteen previous columns). It’s actually keeping your promises, achieving your goals, and doing the things that positively affect people’s lives is the hard part. As we have discussed in our Leadership Otsego sessions, we all want to do the right thing. The right thing is almost never the easiest thing. It comes down to one simple litmus test: Did you do what you said you would do?
So, how did the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce do in our quest to do the right thing and avoid doin’ nothin’? You get to grade us.
The OCCC has grown from an interim President and one part time staffer to two full time folks and one part time staffer. We have added more diversity and more small business owners to our Board. We have invested in a new website, email platform, computer systems, printed needs, carry bags, etc…. We have invested in print, digital, and social media marketing campaigns for members. All of these investments were done locally.
We have (post COVID) reinstituted in-person events such as Member Dinners, the Golf Outing, the Pickleball Tournament, Membership Mixers, and ribbon cuttings. We are also seen regularly at local county events, parades, fairs, trunk or treats and festivals.
We have created 27 new Chamber members in the last 12 months with 20 of those joining in the last 3 months. We have increased the number of educational seminars, webinars and lunch n learns to all area organizations and businesses.
We instituted our first Shop Local, Win Big Promotion that increased store traffic to nearly three dozen businesses county-wide during the 2022 holiday shopping season.
We assist the folks at Hill City Celebrations (formerly First Night), LEAF, SBDC, Otsego Now, REDO, OFO, FOF, Hartwick College, SUNY Oneonta, Rotary, the Coalition for Refugee Resettlement, and many others in whatever way we can.
We conduct an annual Leadership Otsego effort that has grown from 18 participants in 2022 to 28 in 2023.
We have assisted local organizations by creating connections with small business and non-profit funding opportunities, legal assistance, health department regulations, zoning questions, and real estate needs. And, we are an active participant in the City of Oneonta Housing efforts, the newly formed Regional Innovation Council, Southern Tier 8 Broadband Coalition and the Mohawk Valley Economic Development effort.
But we have also fallen short on a few goals. While some progress has been made, I have failed to secure a formal coalition of the many local, city, county, non-profit and other entities into a group that works together under the same umbrella. This has proved frustrating work, but as a hard-headed Irishman, I will not give up.
And as they said about the Nixon Administration, other “mistakes were made”. I have alienated a few folks along the way as I can be a strong cup of tea sometimes. I’ve made some bad decisions. I’ve missed a few appointments (sorry Karen Laing). But I recognize that I’m new to this type of job and I am making the effort to learn.
I ask for your forgiveness for my mistakes, and for listing more positives than negatives on this report card. And for those who wondered what we do, now you know. Finally, I ask for your grade. Please email me a frank assessment from A to F. I can’t wait to hear from you all. firstname.lastname@example.org.