Excitement is building as 15 community leaders hone their competitive edge for the first-ever World Series membership event for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. “At first glance, you may think we’ve lost our minds,” said Gary Farlow, Chamber president and CEO, said about the upcoming “Chamber World Series: Batting a Thousand.”
“This event will be unlike any membership drive we’ve ever hosted. It will be loud and in your face with 300 to 400 volunteers bouncing off the walls.”
According to Farlow, most chambers of commerce struggle through their annual membership drive, sometimes working for several weeks with a minimal return on investment of time and energy. But the local Chamber will host a membership event this fall like no other. For two days, Oct. 1-2, at least 300 Chamber-member volunteers will work madly against the clock and against each other to sign up new Chamber members and create a greater community awareness of the important role of our Chamber of Commerce.
“The event is organized a group called Your Chamber Connection, featuring ‘entertainer’ Jimmy Cusano,” Farlow explained. “Their specialty is high-energy membership campaigns that will allow our volunteers to conduct out-of-the-box membership fun while building our membership base.”
The Chamber’s Program of Work set an ambitious goal for this year: To “become a 1,000-member Chamber by the end of 2013.” With this goal in mind, the theme for the October event is “Chamber World Series: Batting a Thousand.”
“We are a membership-based organization,” said Kevin Moore, vice chairman for Membership Development, “but experience tells us that most people don’t like membership drives. With such a lofty goal, we decided to use the skills of a membership development firm along with competitive community leaders to guide our efforts this fall.”
According to YCC’s Cusano, “It’s about business. The Chamber of Commerce is the business community. This event brings everyone together to build your Chamber.”
He continued, “With a membership event, volunteers come together in a competitive, fun setting and tell the Chamber story. When others hear about everything the Chamber does, all of a sudden you have a great deal of enthusiasm for the Chamber and a great deal of support.”
Team chairs for this membership event are Joe Burton, Mars Chocolate North America; Nancy Casson, The Red Ribbon; Paul Conn, Lee University; Beecher Hunter, Life Care Centers of America; Jim Sharp, Sharp Developments; Ross Tarver, Tarver Distributing Co.; Dicky Walters, Whirlpool Corporation, Cleveland Division; Tom Wheeler, Cleveland Utilities; Jim Workman, Bender Realty; Barbara Baxter, FSG Bank; Jeffrey Cocks, Corporate Networking Solutions; Brigitta Hoeferle, Montessori Kinder; Melinda McIntire, McIntire & Associates Insurance Inc.; Julian Sullivan, Bank of Cleveland; and Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County.
The businesses these team chairs represent have a combined 485 years of Chamber membership. Tom Wheeler, president and CEO of Cleveland Utilities, which has been a Chamber member since 1954 and is the eldest member business of the group, says, “The Chamber offers the best solution to unify the efforts of our retail and commercial establishments with each other and the interest of our local, state and federal governments. If Cleveland did not have a Chamber of Commerce, we would be very busy trying to form one!”
Beecher Hunter is president of Life Care Centers of America, a 36-year member of the Chamber.
“The Chamber of Commerce is at the heart of the dramatic economic development Cleveland and Bradley County have experienced, acting as a central agent in the community to consolidate and focus the fundamental interests and energies of government, private enterprise and education toward a higher quality of life,” he says. “Life Care Centers of America was formed in this environment, benefits from it and is proud to call this place home.”
Tarver Distributing Co., a small business, is also a long-term Chamber member.
“Chamber membership is the BEST investment for small business, with the greatest return to cultivate grassroots business, with a focus on continued growth of the local economy,” Ross Tarver, vice president/general manager, said about his family’s 49 years as a Chamber member.
Newcomer to the business community and Chamber membership, Montessori Kinder became a Chamber member in 2004.
“As both a newcomer to Cleveland in 2004 and as a new business owner in the greater Bradley County community, we immediately became a member of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce,” Brigitta Hoeferle, founder and director, said. “Even though Montessori Kinder as a startup had no income at that time, we quickly realized what an important investment a Chamber membership is. And it is to this day.”
Lee University has supported the Chamber of Commerce since 1967.
“We here at Lee University recognize that, for many people in other places, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce is the face and voice of our community,” Paul Conn, Lee University president, explained. “We deal with out-of-state students and parents constantly, so we know how important our community image is to people out there. That’s why we are such enthusiastic boosters of the Chamber; they do a great job showing people what a wonderful community this is to live, work and go to college.”
All 15 chairs will select a minimum of five team captains, who then will select team members that will participate in the October membership event, calling on businesses and inviting them to become members of the Chamber of Commerce.
“We anticipate at least 300 volunteers who will work in three-hour shifts over a two-day period,” the Chamber president said. “At the end of the third day, we expect to celebrate more than 300 new Chamber members and a thousand members in our database.”
Farlow added, “Chamber staff and community leaders have been meeting for weeks to prepare for this event. You’ll continue to hear from business leaders about why Chamber membership is important to our economic and community development and the image of our community. Already the anticipation and competitive spirit are almost palpable.”