Chamber re-tooling for 2020 and beyond

Thompson

Despite a string of positive growth numbers, the Mayfield/Graves County Chamber of Commerce isn't patting itself on its collective back. Instead, the organization is looking at how to re-tool and focus more on what is important to the local business community.

Chamber President and CEO Denise Thompson noted the numbers of growth from 2017 to 2019 in active members (11%), events (54%) and attendees to its Women in Business, annual dinner and Farm to Table signature events (22%).

She said that while the Chamber is "hitting its stride" in terms of what it is offering members and the community, it is now looking at adjusting programming and expanding support. This will include phasing out the monthly "Lunch Mob" networking event while creating a young professionals group.

"That's a real positive for our community, to have engagement with our young professionals," Thompson said of the new group. Of the Lunch Mob decision, she said, "That was a networking event, and with 300 members it wasn't reaching the full membership as we wanted to."

The Chamber has revamped its administrative assistant position into the chamber relations coordinator role, which is held by Allison Sloan. Sloan is overseeing the Young Professionals and working specifically with Chamber members and has started working on events, as well.

"We're hoping, in doing that, that will free me up to spend more time on broader issues affecting membership and the business community," Thompson said.

Part of that effort is the Graves Strategic Development group, which looks at community issues where the Chamber, City of Mayfield, Graves County Fiscal Court, Graves County Economic Development and Mayfield-Graves County Tourism can collaborate.

Thompson said three initiatives the group worked on in 2019 were the Ride to Work program with Fulton County Transit Authority, United Works in Tennessee to address local inmate recidivism and workforce needs, and the inaugural Fairground Festival of Lights at the Mayfield-Graves County Fairground during November and December.

She also said as an extension of the GSD work, the Chamber board of directors would begin meeting bi-monthly in February to examine and address issues such as workforce development and education's impact on businesses in the community.

"Our schools do a great job of preparing our kids for the workforce, but there still needs to be increased communication between local industry and schools so we're on same page about what each other needs," Thompson said.

"It takes a lot of legwork and conversations to get everyone connected," she added.

The Chamber is seeking additional support, too, through its membership and Cornerstone Partnership programs. A membership drive is currently underway this month to seek 30 or more new Chamber members in the 30-day period to add to its 300-member roster.

CFSB, First Kentucky Bank, MCP and CTI are currently the four Cornerstone Partners. Thompson said she is seeking to grow that group to six or even 10 for a two-year commitment to help invest in the Chamber's efforts and programming.

"Many of our members understand the value of the work that we're able to do when we have time to focus on issues that matter to the business community," she added.

Mayfield/Graves County Chamber of Commerce also has its 2019-20 Leadership Class of 11 local professionals examining various aspects of Mayfield and Graves County, while also in the process of finalizing its event schedule for the new year.

Two dates are already on its calendar for Feb. 12-13 and a trip to Frankfort during the current General Assembly. Chamber, community, Ambassador and Leadership members are invited to present local legislative issues and meet with various organizations, such as the Kentucky Chamber and Department of Local Government.

The event concludes with West Kentucky "Thank You" Night.

"Last year, we had a really big group of almost 40 people in Frankfort," Thompson said. "It makes an impact."

Legislative items the local group has identified range from the Rural Jobs Act; tax, pension and hemp reform; vaping; and public transit toll credit replacement increase.

For additional information on these and other chamber of commerce events and activities, contact 270-247-6101 or email info@mayfieldgraveschamber.com.

Eric Walker is the news editor for The Mayfield Messenger. He has also worked as a staff writer for the Messenger, editor for the Murray Ledger & Times, and in public relations. He is married with two sons.