Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

The Chamber focuses on promoting local businesses

Will sponsor fewer community events


What does a Chamber of Commerce do?

Every chamber’s missions may vary, according to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, but they all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: building communities; promoting those communities; striving to ensure future prosperity; representing the unified voice of the employer community; and reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks.

Chambers have other features in common as well. Most are led by private-sector employers, self-funded, organized around boards/committees of volunteers and independent. They share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers. Most are ardent proponents of the free market system.

Kimball and Banner County businesses voluntarily pay the chamber for membership. This membership, acting collectively, elects a board of directors and/or executive council to set policy for, and guide the workings of, the chamber. The board or executive committee hires a director for the chamber, locally Jo Caskey was hired to run the organization.

According to the Kimball Banner Ccounty Chamber Director, Jo Caskey, “A Chamber is a membership driven organization comprised of businesses and business supporters. Its purpose is to promote its business members first, then the rest of the business community, then the community as a whole.”

Caskey stated earlier this month that our chamber would be more focused on the business portion of the Kimball and Banner County Communities and less on community events, such as the fireworks display, coloring contests, poetry contest, yard of the week and similar events that have been long-standing traditions in Kimball that will no longer be sponsored by the local Chamber.

One local business owner and active KBCCC member of more than 50 years, who wished to remain unnamed, said that doing away with annual events such as yard of week, pumpkin decorating, parade of lights, the ambassadors, and so forth is a mistake that the Chamber should reconsider.

“Doing a yard of the week, coloring contests, etc. does not support the purpose of a Chamber, nor does it benefit the business community,” Caskey said.

Instead, Caskey and the Chamber board have been working on a “shop local” campaign.

“We are trying to do things to make people realize that if you don’t support your retail community, pretty soon your retail community is not going to be there,” she said in an earlier statement.

In years past, and for several decades, part of the local shopping experience included a large sidewalk sale event.

The final sidewalk sale sponsored by the Chamber was two years ago, according to Caskey, who added that there has not been, nor does she expect, any conversation regarding revitalizing that event.

“Take a look at the composition of the downtown area. At the last sidewalk sale, only four stores participated,” she said. “Why? Basic logistics.”

Caskey further explained that Kimball currently has less than 10 businesses in the area that actually have “product” that could be set on a table on the sidewalk.

“The rest are service businesses or food and beverage establishments. Look at the staff level of those “product” businesses. How many of them have two or more employees? Maybe two of them,” she said. “You don’t put product on the street without a staff person attending it, leaving only one in the store to assist customers there. That is a strain on the business. I attended the last two sidewalk sales and was shocked how few citizens actually showed up to buy. I don’t blame the retailers for not wanting to go through the work to set things up when the community doesn’t turn out.”

Rebecca Brown, owner and operator of Java Blend in downtown Kimball, welcomes new ideas from the Chamber and realizes that they are working hard. But as a chamber member, she added that she would like the Chamber to increase contact with members and ensure the correct information is shared with the online community about local businesses. Brown added that the local Chamber website carries outdated information about her business.

When asked what our local chamber has planned to help get the community involved in supporting our local businesses and if new any new events are in the works Caskey said that she is not yet ready to share the information with the public.


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