Jessica Holdman, The Bismarck Tribune , Published October 21 2012
ND chambers of commerce growing along with businessesBISMARCK – While working for a chamber of commerce in Florida, Marci Seamples saw a dip in membership. Now as executive director of the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, she has seen 100 new members added in the past 12 months.
“We are growing. Chambers in North Dakota are growing,” Seamples said.
Seamples said chamber membership often is part of a company’s marketing budget. With a strong economy, North Dakota companies are able to invest more.
“Overall, chambers in North Dakota reflect the business climate of the state,” said Andy Peterson, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce president.
The same is true at the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Cooper Whitman said one quarter of the chamber’s members have joined in the past two years. “The business environment is booming, so the chamber is booming,” he said. “It’s unprecedented, really.”
Whitman said because the Dickinson chamber doesn’t have to spend time recruiting members, staff is able to focus on community building, like going into schools and collaborating on holiday celebrations. “We don’t want to be only involved in business,” he said.
To adapt to its increase in membership, Seamples said, the Williston chamber is trying to improve the services it offers. The organization has hired one new person to help coordinate events and is averaging one event per week. The organization is placing more of a focus on public relations, social media and networking to get the word out about its members. “With more members coming on board and the town growing, new companies need help meeting people,” Seamples said.
Ameri-Tech, a company that runs oil field crew camps, has been a Williston chamber member for one year. Haley Vorgert, the company’s public relations manager, has lived in Williston her whole life. She said that when she was younger, she didn’t notice the chamber as much, but now that she works for Ameri-Tech she sees the group all the time.
“When I was in there the other day they got six new members in one day,” Vorgert said.
Ameri-Tech is hosting the Williston chamber’s next networking event, and Vorgert said chamber employees have been helpful with making the preparations.
“No one really knows what workforce housing is,” she said. “Once they do come out maybe they’ll be more excited about us being in the community.”
The chamber also has helped Vorgert set up ribbon cuttings for several of her company’s crew camps, but, like her company, the organization is struggling to keep up with demand.
“I think they’re doing the best they can just like the rest of us,” she said.
Like any business in Williston, keeping employees is a challenge, Seamples said.
“No one has been here more than a year,” she said, herself included.