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​​AUSTIN AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

The Board of Directors of the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce sets the organization's priorities and programming. Below is an outline of priorities for 2017 and beyond:


#1 PRIORITY -- Workforce Development.
Workforce is the Chamber’s top economic development priority. Member businesses have noted that it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain key employees to our area. AustinWorks is a collaborative, workforce initiative designed to help companies recruit employees and connect their families to the community. Major components of the program include:


  • Community Concierge. A clearinghouse of information and personalized services, designed to introduce and connect all family members to the community. Over the past 3 years, more than 400 families have been served; 78% of them have chosen Austin as their new home. Total economic impact is estimated at more than $14 million.
  • Renewed Commitment to Students of all ages seeking pathways to employment and career enhancement through programs such as Step Up Austin. The Chamber recruits participating businesses and provides eligible employers with financial assistance.
  • Community Receptionist develops and publishes marketing materials, including Someplace Special magazine, Welcome to Austin folders and Welcome gift bags. Updated magazines and folders are scheduled for print in 2017.
  • The Chamber co-hosts a Summer Job Fair with Workforce Development, helping to connect students with local job opportunities.
  • The Chamber and its members are developing a new educational opportunity for high school juniors and seniors. The CEO Program develops business skills, encourages entrepreneurship and connects students to career opportunities within the Austin area. The program is expected to launch Fall 2018. 

 

#2 PRIORITY -- Promoting Our Members
Buy Mower/Grow Mower, a shop local campaign, was established in 2008 in response to data that showed declining retail sales in Austin and Mower County. Since Buy Mower was established as the Chamber's top marketing priority, retail sales have improved. City retail sales tax collections are double initial projections established in 2008. Last year, retail sales tax collections hit a new high with more than $1.5 million, reflecting $300 million in sales. However, overall sales continue to lag statewide averages. The Board feels the Buy Mower message is an important one and should be continued and enhanced.

To improve the effectiveness of the Buy Mower/Grow Mower campaign, the Board included $16,000 in the 2017 budget to promote Buy Mower and We Are Austin efforts.  The Board encourages all members to participate by promoting the messages in their places of business and marketing efforts.


  • 10% Rebates (up to $500) will be paid to all members including Buy Mower, We Are Austin logos along with “shop local” messaging.
  • Continue direct marketing opportunities for members through Spring and Holiday coupon books. All members receive a $50 discount in these publications, thanks to Chamber subsidies.
  • All members are encouraged to purchase Chamber Bucks for employee or customer rewards, sending a message that it is important for them to support other businesses within the community. Over $122,000 were sold in 2016.


 
#3 PRIORITY -- Membership
The Chamber will continue to grow its membership base, thereby raising the value for all members and increasing the volume of our voice for business.


  • Reach out to all members with staff and board members to review Chamber programming and changing membership needs.
  • Continue Grow Mower/Grow Minnesota business retention and expansion program, monitoring the State of Business in Austin and Mower County.
  • Maintain a 94% retention rate.
  • Add 35 new members.


 
#4 PRIORITY -- Business Advocacy
The Chamber will provide a strong, effective voice for its business members in government affairs.


  • Reduce business taxes and regulations, particularly commercial property taxes. Businesses pay the highest rates of all properties, and also pay a statewide tax. We want to reduce the statewide business property tax, eliminate the automatic escalator built into that tax, and better educate local officials on the impact of property taxes on business and job growth.
  • Increase state investment in transportation infrastructure. We support a 10-year, comprehensive state transportation funding package that includes use of General Fund revenues, bonding and state reserves. We support a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax and oppose Mower County’s proposed local option sales tax.
  • We oppose local labor mandates, including minimum wage and paid leave requirements. A troubling new trend is for cities to enact their own workplace mandates. We support statewide preemption of local government labor mandates.
  • Health Care. We support one-time assistance to individuals and businesses wo have seen dramatic increases in health insurance premiums. We support a reduction in health care taxes and mandates, as well as expansion of insurance and provider options for individuals and businesses.
  • We support strengthening ADA lawsuit reform to require mandatory notice and additional time for businesses to address alleged violations. Frivolous lawsuits, targeting small businesses by a handful of rogue attorneys, continue to plague small businesses across the state. Voluntary notice was passed last session; notice should be mandatory.


 
#5 PRIORITY -- Promoting Our Community
The Chamber will host activities that connect and showcase our members, and also organize events that enhance our quality of life and improve our area economy. The Chamber will work through Vision 2020 toward projects that enhance the quality of life in Austin and Mower County.


  • Vision 2020. We support the responsible development of programs and amenities that enhance the quality of life of all residents.
  • Christmas in the City. The Chamber will host holiday events in four retail sectors of the community, and continue to promote all members in the Calendar of Events.
  • Freedom Fest. The Chamber will continue to build on our annual “celebration of community and country,” organizing and hosting events from June 30-July 4 that entertain tens of thousands of residents and visitors alike.
  • Ag Appreciation Summer Cookout. The Chamber will continue to promote agriculture and the agribusiness community through this customer appreciation event. Last year, over 1300 people attended the cookout. Revenue was used to support the ag-related organizations, including 4-H, FFA, Corn & Soybean Producers, Dairy Association, Pork Producers, Farm Bureau and our annual “Day on the Farm” tour.  


 
GUILDING PRINCIPLES - 2012-2017


TOP 5 LONG-TERM GOALS

1. The Chamber will promote and support its members, working to increase their visibility and success.
2. The Chamber will serve as the voice of business, promoting policies and economic development efforts that strengthen our business climate.
3. The Chamber will work to enhance the quality of life for all residents, making Austin and Mower County a preferred choice to live, work and play.
4. The Chamber will broaden and strengthen its membership base, reaching out to all businesses in Mower County.


The Board of Directors will revisit all priorities and long-term goals at its annual Fall Retreat this October. Members will be surveyed in advance of the retreat for their input and suggestions.

2017 CHAMBER PRIORITIES