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Sherri Richards, Published January 24 2011

Plan outlines vision for metro chamber

The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce may soon have a new name, vision and mission statement, all part of a recent strategic planning process.

The chamber has been going through this process for the last three to four months. The chamber’s board may vote to adopt the 12- to 15-page strategic plan at its meeting Thursday.

Chamber President/CEO Craig Whitney said the plan will outline direction for the 1,950-member organization.

“It’s an effort and exercise that we felt was important to go through for the benefit of the organization and the benefit of our members,” Whitney said. “When we come up with a final product, it will really be a blueprint for the next three years.”

He said key words from the plan will be “advocacy, education and engagement.”

A large part of the plan will likely focus on the chamber’s involvement in public policy – something Whitney has made clear is one of his goals for the organization.

“That’s something, even before hiring Craig, the board was desirous of and our membership was asking us to go to,” said Jeff Thomas, chairman of the 16-member chamber board.

Last spring, the board took a position against a revised Fargo city sign code. It voiced support for a Cass County sales tax and the Moorhead school referendum in November’s general election. Chamber members will travel to Bismarck Feb. 3 and St. Paul Feb. 22 for “Day on the Hill” events. For the first time, the metro chamber now has a part-time paid lobbyist in Bismarck.

Whitney said the chamber is looking out for legislation that could be onerous or restrictive for businesses. “We want to speak out to affect it,” he said.

As part of the strategic planning, the chamber sought input from its board, staff, members and community leaders, holding focus groups and conducting an online survey.

It hired a Twin Cities-based consulting firm, a chamber member whose partners have experience working in chambers, to guide the process. Whitney declined to say how much the firm charged but said its fee was “reasonable.”

Whitney said the organization hadn’t conducted an official strategic plan since the merger of the Fargo and Moorhead groups in 1997. It became more crucial to look at the organization’s logo and name in October, when a merger created the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s hard to convey,” Whitney said of the current name. “It’s long and cumbersome.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556