The accolades continue to roll in for the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce. The organization was recognized at a banquet last week in Champaign, after being named the state’s Outstanding Chamber of Commerce of the Year by the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Making the win more special was that it came on the chamber’s first nomination.
This award comes on the heels of last year’s impressive achievements on a national stage. The chamber learned it had attained 5-star accreditation status with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. At the time, it made the Sauk Chamber one of only 120 nationwide to reach that level of recognition.
Both awards recognized the chamber for many of the same reasons. The chamber scored well on a range of benchmarks, including policy strengths, strength of organizational procedures, technology, finances and program development to name a few.
The key, however, to the chamber’s success is that it has been forward-thinking and has its eye on the big picture – the organization realizes that its mission extends far beyond boosting membership.
The Sauk Valley’s business and education leaders have clearly identified workforce development as the single most important driver in the region’s future growth and success. The leaders have made a firm commitment to forming as many partnerships as possible, realizing that collaboration is imperative to ensuring the area can meet the difficult challenges faced by rural America. How the area deals with the issues of population loss and the skills gap will in large part determine its future.
The Sauk Chamber has stepped up and taken a leading role in forming and facilitating those partnerships. In announcing the chamber’s recent state award, IACCE Chairman Jon Ridler highlighted that function.
“They have successfully established partnerships, especially their education-workforce collaboration, and continue to develop and model best practices in the chamber industry as evidenced by their continued U.S. Chamber accreditation status that can be replicated around the state.”
While many chambers work hard to meet the immediate needs of its membership, this group has broadened its scope and taken its mission far beyond the internal functions of its own organization. It works to continually evolve and step outside the box to meet the community’s unique needs.
Under the strong leadership of Executive Director Kris Noble, a premium has been put on member engagement. It’s not just about what the chamber can do for businesses, but also what businesses can do for the future growth of the region. The chamber members are buying into what the business and education partnerships are trying to accomplish. Self-interest is taking a back seat to the common good, and the tide is changing, in large part because of the chamber’s efforts to make members believe they have a seat at the table.
Dealing with the complex issues of economic development and improving quality of life requires as many partnerships as possible. The chamber is making the process more inclusive, which will bring more ideas to the table and yield better solutions.