STERLING – The Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce has taken its U.S. Chamber accreditation to a new level.
While the local chamber has earned national recognition for its work since 1972, it recently learned that it has reached 5-star status, a distinction that few chambers receive.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has given 5-year accreditation to 208 chambers, and the Sauk Valley Chamber is one of only 120 that has earned the coveted 5-star recognition.
For evaluation purposes, the U.S. Chamber uses several benchmarks to measure the strength of chambers’ policies, effectiveness of organizational procedures, and the impact they have on their communities.
The benchmarks include human resources, finances, program development, technology, community facilities, governance and partnerships.
The commitment to going from 4-star to the highest level of recognition is substantial, and Executive Director Kris Noble had the full support of her 15-member board in pursuing it.
“My board was very understanding about how much time and energy this process was going to take,” Noble said. “About 6 to 9 months from the deadline, we got a reminder from the U.S. Chamber and then there were nine packets of information that we had to provide covering all areas of the chamber.”
Noble had to completely lock in to the application process from May through August to get everything together, she said.
Noble thanks her predecessors for leaving a strong foundation from which to build upon.
“Kim Ewoldsen and Heather Sotelo had run this organization well for a long time, so the governance and policies have always been strong,” Noble said. “The staff and board has always been forward-thinking and capable of looking at the big picture.”
Other strengths of the chamber’s application came in the areas of program development, workforce development and its collaborative efforts throughout the community - mirroring many of the national organization’s top priorities.
The partnerships, particularly in the area of workforce development, have been keys to getting everyone on the same page in charting the area’s economic future.
“I believe that the most important part of my job is to bring as many people to the table as possible to work toward making our community the best place it can be,” Noble said. “We can’t afford to wait for Illinois to fix itself and help us.”
The chamber believes the hard work was worth it because of the message it sends to its membership, which now totals 380 representing 12 ZIP codes.
“We’re a small rural chamber trying to do what the larger chambers are doing, and this accreditation sets up apart,” Noble said. “Our members know we’re following best practices and they’re working with a reputable organization. We have a small budget, but our members want to know we’re making the best use of those dollars.”
A big priority in 2019 will be the continuation of its workforce development, manufacturing and agriculture efforts, and the development of the chamber’s millennial group which now numbers about 80.
A U.S. Chamber representative will be here to present the award at the local chamber’s annual dinner on Jan. 24.
Call 815-625-2400, go to saukvalleyareachamber.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the office at 211 Locust St. in Sterling to learn more about the Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce.