In February 2016, Ideas in Motion Media hosted a Chamber Roundtable event, which served as not only an opportunity to introduce the public to learn about Chamber leaders and what they do, but also to encourage teamwork and understanding among the Chamber partners.
Nancy Simpson (Executive Director, Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce), Sue Reed (Executive Director, Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce), Mike Seitz (President, Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce), Lisa Winstead (President, Hobart Chamber of Commerce), and Maura Durham (President, Duneland Chamber of Commerce) joined IIMM Publisher Chris Mahlmann for the discussion.
The five chamber leaders start things off by sharing a bit about their respective chambers and communities. Each chamber brings a unique service to their community, depending on whether the focus of the chamber's mission is on legislature, signature events, or networking opportunities.
Despite the differences between the chamber styles, one area of focus is always on top of the minds of the Northwest Indiana chamber leaders: the people and businesses that make up their membership.
“They are more than our member businesses or more than just businesses to us. You’re talking about the family and friends, and friends of friends,” explained Durham. “We eat breakfast together because you want to do business with your friends and with your family.
For Seitz, that focus on ‘quality of life’ is one that makes a chamber so valuable to a community.
“We are all interested in the quality of life of our communities, said Seitz. “We may do things a little differently, but the bottom line is that we’re looking at the quality of life for our communities . Those issues are very, very important.”
While there are many pillars of a high quality of life here in Northwest Indiana, these Chamber leaders are also looking to improve in any way they can. They talk about improving roads and infrastructure, most notably the expansion of the South Shore Line, and how that will help not improve quality of life but also bring help people to Northwest Indiana from the Chicagoland area.
“The South Shore Line can take you from Chicago all the way to South Bend. And we’re looking to expand that in Portage with our Northside Development,” explained Simpson. “You can get on a train in Chicago with your bicycle, take it to the Ogden Dunes station, and ride your bike straight to the beach.”
Also adding to the quality of live is the sheer abundance of family friendly events attend in the region. From festivals to concerts - two types of activities organized by groups like these chambers - all contribute to a high standard of living in Northwest Indiana.
“I think that is what makes our region great,” said Reed. “You don’t have to go to Chicago to see a play. You don’t have to go to Chicago to see hear the symphony. We have all of that right here!”
The wide-ranging conversation touched on a number of additional topics including volunteerism amongst their membership and legislative issues affecting Indiana Chambers. One (perhaps under-the-radar) aspect of life in Northwest Indiana that the Chambers affect and may be new to some readers is the role chambers play in education. The Chamber works with education institutions to encourage "real-life" learning through events like the Realty Store or through work placement programs designed to accelerate workplace education.
“We are working more closely with schools in implementing the Work Ethics Program,” explained Winstead. “A lot of business owners tell us that soft skills and work ethics and getting people to show up to work [are important]. So we’re really trying to work with the schools to train these kids early.”
You can listen to the full audio in our Northwest Indiana Podcast link on Soundcloud, or watch the four clips from the conversation we pulled below.