The Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce will receive the 2017 Chamber of the Year award by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Jackson Chamber Director Brian Gerau said this award is a culmination of the work the chamber has done over the past nine years and is the “highest honor a small chamber can win.”
Since Gerau started working at the Chamber and they rebranded themselves in 2008, membership has grown by 91 percent and attendance at Chamber events has increased by 350 percent.
“We went from a Chamber that was coffee and donuts, and just a social club, to one that is really what chambers should be and is developing business relationships, retaining business, trying to recruit business and holding programs that help businesses,” Gerau said.
Forming a strong connection to the statewide chamber has been important to the Chamber recently as it was able to reach Fortune 500 companies and government officials.
“They are our best connection to some of those movers and shakers statewide,” Gerau said. “So when I first started with the Chamber, we had zero relationship with the Missouri Chamber. We were chamber members with them, but we really didn’t have a very good working partnership. So over the years, we’ve worked tirelessly to be at the table with the Missouri Chamber.”
Missouri Chamber President Dan Mehan said in a news release that the Jackson Chamber is now a strong ally of the Missouri Chamber.
“The Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce is a driver of economic growth in the Southeast Missouri region,” Mehan said. “From explosive membership growth to innovative and collaborative approaches to meet Jackson’s workforce needs, the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce is helping grow jobs in Missouri and is setting the standard in the chamber business.”
The Jackson Chamber staff members were leading an academy held at the Missouri Chamber for new chamber directors across the state, when they were told they were receiving this award.
“We were just ecstatic,” Gerau said. “To be honest with you, I was hoping we were going to win, but I didn’t think we were going to win. Especially when you are going up against some major metropolitan chambers.”
Jackson competed with local chambers from Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City, all of which have three times the budget and staff of Jackson according to Gerau.
“You got the Yankees and you got the Mariners,” Gerau said. “Well we’re the Mariners, but just because we’re smaller doesn’t mean we can’t compete. We don’t have the salaries and the budgets and everything the major markets have, but I think our work speaks for itself.”
Gerau will accept the award during the Missouri Chamber’s banquet on Nov. 16 inside Busch Stadium in front of companies like Anheuser-Busch, Boeing and Drury Hotels.
At the same banquet, Dennis Vinson will be installed as the chair for the Missouri Chamber. Vinson is the owner and operator of Signature Packaging in Jackson. Gerau said it is practically unheard of for a small chamber to have the incoming chair and win the Chamber of the Year award in the same year.
“They’re going to wonder what’s in the water in Jackson, because it’s got to be pretty good,” Gerau said.
Gerau believes the chamber couldn’t have grown to this point without the board of director’s support to try new things, his staff’s dedication and the participation of over 500 businesses in the Chamber.