It’s a common question that can rise to dilemma status in a heartbeat, no matter the context: Should you change things up or stick with the status quo?
With Amanda Lien announcing last week that she's resigning as executive director of the Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce after a couple months of controversy - she's going to pursue her masters degree - a similar question surfaces, but, specific to the Chamber, it takes the form of, where does the Chamber go from here?
It's been mentioned to Times staff that maybe it's an opportunity to press rewind, to join the Chamber and United Way of Crookston once again so they can utilize each others time and talents in ways that benefit both.
The thinking right here right now, however, is that ship has sailed. As we ponder the Chamber's future directions, let's just keep our thoughts limited to the Chamber.
In doing so, we need to ask, what is the Chamber today and in the future, exactly? What is its mission? It's role? Its function? That’s all written down on paper, of course, as it should be, but that doesn’t always translate to reality and what’s actually happening.
You can author detailed and inspiring mission statements and speak at podiums about all the things you're doing, but are they the things that people, i.e. your members and your community, want you to do?
This would seem like an opportune time to consider everything when considering where the Chamber goes from here, and as part of that, current members need to have a major say. So do ex-members who decided for whatever reason to stop paying their dues, and other businesses that haven't ever been members or haven't been for some time. The Chamber needs to find out what it needs to do to increase its membership and, in turn, increase its revenue. If the Chamber was a business, how would it boost public opinion and get more customers?
Times have changed. Back in the day, the Chamber executive director and staff were basically ambassadors for the local business community. They walked the streets. They popped in. They asked how things were going, and shook hands. We could count on the Chamber staff, when they weren't doing that, leading Ox Cart Days Festival planning, running Leadership Crookston, and coordinating the Chamber's annual Crookston birthday celebration, and the Chamber's annual awards banquet.
These days, the Chamber doesn't take the lead on organizing or running Ox Cart Days and has kind of backed away from leading events in general. It still does Leadership Crookston and its annual Chamber community birthday fundraiser, which also doubled this year as its awards banquet. The Chamber today seems intent on leading various enrichment and professional growth programs for people, especially young people, who want to improve themselves, and that's fine, one could argue, but is that what the business community wants? Is that what our Chamber should do? Do we need a staff of this size and a leader's salary of this scope to make those things happen? Maybe we do. Maybe we don’t.
It seems like other groups are stepping in and filling voids. There's a Uniquely Crookston business group that's promoting its business members. The Downtown Crookston Development Partnership is taking the lead on boosting downtown.
Where does that leave the Chamber today, tomorrow, and beyond that? First and foremost, that question needs to be answered. It would seem like a missed opportunity, not to mention a misguided strategy, to simply hire another executive director and continue on this same path without deliberately and purposefully asking the community what it wants and needs from its Chamber of Commerce.