2019-02-06 / Opinions & Letters

Does Delphi want the ‘City’ Chamber?

Commentary


McKean McKean For over 25 years, my family has owned and operated Wallmann’s Quality Foods. Our family business has been a Delphi Chamber of Commerce member for as long as I can remember, and I have been on the Board of Directors for the past five years; president of the Board for the past two years.

Outside the grocery, you may have seen me at “City” Chamber-sponsored events such as the Old Settlers’ Festival, the Delphi Easter Egg Hunt, passing out popsicles at Delphi’s 4th of July Fireworks Show, or presenting the Samuel Milroy Award at the Greater Delphi Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

I’m highlighting the events that the “City” Chamber sponsors to show what we might lose, as a community, if this organization ceases to operate. This is a concept that is becoming more and more of a reality.

I am stepping down from my position as president of the Board of Directors in order to pursue a different career path, in a different city. (Don’t worry, Wallmann’s isn’t going anywhere.) When I took over as Chamber president, I had a vision for the potential of this organization and what we, as a group, could achieve, especially after the Stellar project and having our downtown area revitalized. With a little effort and increased participation, we could bring the Chamber back to a respectable level, and open up countless possibilities of its influence on business and government. We could improve our events. We could open a welcome center and office with full-time staff. We could begin to expand our reach on social media and broaden our advertising boundaries, reaching more people. And, most importantly, we could have a real impact on bringing increased revenue and traffic to our local businesses. That is the goal of our non-profit organization: To promote commerce for our local businesses, and to improve the quality of life for the residents of our community.

When I joined the Board, I wanted to focus on changing things I knew would have a positive impact. We simplified what we were doing and scaled back some of our events. This way, instead of trying to do 10 things just okay, we could do six really well, working on building community participation and coming up with ideas to better the events, adding more later if needed. We created transparency within our organization and can show our members exactly where their money is and what it is being used for, at any given time. Most importantly, building relationships with local government officials and other nonprofit groups was prioritized; with the main objective working together and participating in each other’s activities. We all have the same goals, so we should all be helping each other to help the people we represent.

For a while, the Board of Directors was doing very well at working to achieve these goals. Where we fell short was on getting participation.

We have a small group of people who are consistently part of our volunteer efforts, but it has been that same group of people for several years and we have not been able to recruit any others to join us in our efforts to further improve our community. All of the Chamber’s activities are done in order to give people things to do here in hopes that others will hear about it and want to come here, too, and maybe convince a few of our younger people to stay and raise their families here. But as time goes on we realize that it is always the same few putting in the work.

We all have jobs or businesses to run, and families and homes of our own to care for. We are all short of money and time to donate to something other than what we see as a primary need. But the fact remains this organization needs support in order to function. We already have dwindling numbers, and with the loss of financial support from our city and county governments, it’s harder to keep providing the services we once did. It seems that the growing sentiment amongst the people and our government officials is that they want certain events and services provided; but, they don’t want to spend their own time or money to see that these things happen.

We are starting to see the potential for what this group could achieve fade and the few of us who remain are running out of ideas to keep the organization functioning properly. Now I have to leave the group and there is no one in line to take up that responsibility.

Last year for our Annual Banquet, we sent out over 50 invitations in advance with the instructions to RSVP for the event, nominate Board members (of whom we elect three every years) and suggest winners for yearly awards (Milroy, Business of the Year, etc.). We only received a handful of ballots. No one was interested in joining the Board, and no one had any person within their business who wanted to be a representative. I counted on one hand the number of people who made a Business of the Year nomination. The level of those willing to participate may be the poorest I have ever seen, and it has those of us who ARE participating asking ourselves, why? I fear the organization is on the verge of a collapse.

I ask you a very REAL question; Is a collapse just something that needs to happen? Is this what the community needs, one less group to come asking for your money or your time? Ask yourself if you are ready to not have a group that’s looking out for the interests of JUST this city. We can divert to the “County” Chamber as a source for economic support, but can it really do any more than it already does?

What might we lose as a result? Old Settlers? 4th of July fireworks? Christmas lights on the Courthouse Monument? Any one of dozens of things are up in the air if you answer “no” to the question: “Do we really need the City Chamber?”

If your answer is “Yes,” then I leave you with this challenge: Be Involved! These events, this organization, and the stability of our city will only prosper if more people take an interest in making sure that it prospers. If you want there to be a group concerned with the growth and prosperity of our city, then you need to consider being a part of that conservation. Go to the meetings; they take place at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month in the City Council conference room, second floor of the Delphi City Building, and are open to the public. Volunteer for the Chamber’s events. Join the Chamber and run for a Board position. You are also welcome to call the Chamber at anytime to voice your concerns or inquire about information: 765- 564-9997. The only way that change will occur in this situation is if you all decide it should.

Whatever the decision, I respect your choice. I respect each and every one of you in this business community. I thank you for the support and kind words I have received during my time leading the Chamber. I have enjoyed working to better the City of Delphi and I wish you all the best for your businesses and this community. God Bless you.

Matthew A. McKean

Operations Manager

Wallmann’s Quality Foods

President Greater Delphi

Chamber of Commerce

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