What a year it’s been!  In 2016, we put on 10 General Membership luncheons, 6 Thursday Night Live events, 2 regional mixers, and 2 Coffee Connects – all great ways for our members to create and nurture your business relationships.  We’ve awarded 6 businesses of the month, conducted 11 ribbon cuttings, 2 new member orientations, and 2 professional development seminars.  We netted 38 new members, bringing our membership total to 358.

In March, Margie and I both completed the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives Institute.

We continued throughout 2016 to encourage business interaction with schools through our CEO or Creating Educational Opportunities program by highlighting a story each week in our e-news.  We hosted a coding camp for middle school students.  We’ve participated in the mentoring program at the high school, and again facilitated the On My Own simulation at Raider Academy just a week ago.  Thank you to those of you who volunteered your time for that.

We built a whole new website that is now fully Search Engine Optimized which increases your listing searchability and online visibility, and we’re seeing some of your businesses get as many as 1,000-1,200 unique impressions since its implementation in July. The site is now seeing an average of 1,500 unique visitors each month.

We’ve also added additional options to supplement your membership.  These options give you the opportunity to enhance exposure for your business, and we hope you’ll take advantage of those in the coming year.

We are proud to have been directly involved in Manchester’s 2016 designation as a Tennessee Downtowns city and also in the $41,000 Tourism Enhancement Grant that will be used to install electrical at the soccer fields.

Over the last year, your chamber of commerce has been a strong voice of leadership and advocacy.

Back in the summer, we welcomed the new contractors, Bechtel and National Aerospace Solutions to our community by facilitating a procurement conference to help prepare Manchester businesses for contract opportunities at the base.

Furthermore, we traveled to Washington DC on behalf of Arnold Engineering Development Complex to be sure that senators and representatives continue to revere AEDC as the important national resource that it is.

In addition, we strongly supported Manchester’s retention of the TSSAA golf tournament by bringing together local elected officials and other important players, and we’ve just learned that this highly competitive bid has again been awarded to Willow Brook for another four years.

Through the holiday months, we sent a strong message to consider shopping Manchester first, an important way to “love your city.”  And speaking of loving your city, we brought world-renowned author Peter Kageyama to town in December for our 2020 2.0 conference to show us ways we can really engage with our city to make it a more lovable place.

Indeed, we’ve advocated heavily over the last year for two causes that are vital to our growth.

The first of these is Bonnaroo and Great Stage Park.  As negotiations are in progress for 2017, we’ve encouraged elected officials to exercise flexibility in order to retain one of our precious industries and in fact, our very differential.  Coincidentally, we encouraged Manchester businesses to take full advantage of having 80-100,000 guests and to fully embrace a coveted music festival.  We also encouraged residents not to be afraid to still come out to shop or dine, as we know our businesses still need that local support during the festival.

Next, in 2016, we developed an Industrial Roundtable where plant managers and CEO’s come together with educators and state economic development professionals to talk about workforce needs and skills gaps and how best to address them.

Recognizing the need for more skilled laborers, we have met with the Chancellor’s office of the Tennessee Board of Regents to express our desire for an instructional service center of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology McMinnville to be located right here in Coffee County.  We assisted in putting together two grant applications, and though we were not awarded, Vice Chancellor of TCAT’s, James King, has committed to help us identify funding sources to equip and facilitate the operation of a state-of-the-art Industrial Maintenance program with our commitment to build a physical facility.  Dr. Warren Laux, of TCAT McMinnville, has been an advocate on this front as well, and we so appreciate their attention to Coffee County.

We will continue in 2017 in all these endeavors and hope to be a chamber of commerce of which you can be proud.  Thank you for your membership, for your sponsorships, and for the investment of time that so many of you make.