When Pat Kahle became President of the Union County Chamber in September of 2013, the Chamber had just under 500 member organizations. “One of the first thoughts I had, as I came into this role, was that I wanted to see us bring a new energy into the organization, into our membership. I wanted to see us really focus on adding value,” Kahle said.
And they have. Under Kahle’s leadership, the Chamber now has over 700 member organizations, with an average growth of 30% over the past five years. But Kahle believes there is still plenty of room for growth. And the Chamber Board is positioned to make that growth happen through the implementation of their new strategic plan.
A Strategic Plan
Kahle holds her team in high regard. One of the first things she implemented as President was team meetings. “Every time we would have an event or a program we would debrief to see what worked well, and what didn’t. Just to see that we were doing the best job we could with what we had to work with,” she said. “We had a good board. We had a good staff. There were things in place that just needed a little help with the direction that we were headed. And so that’s kind of where we started.”
Kahle said that all businesses have some common needs, such as a qualified workforce, good regulatory environment, and a good economy. But at the same time, each business segment has individual needs, too. “So what we’ve tried to do is to tailor some of our programming to meet those different needs. And that’s been a successful formula so far.”
In late 2017 the Board decided to bring in a nationally-known consultant who specializes in working with Chambers. “She started her work by doing surveys of our membership and previous members who were no longer with us. She had conversations with community leaders. Then she had a two-day Board Retreat and took all of that data and helped us define a strategic plan of where we want to be, going forward,” explained Kahle.
Where We’re Going
Through that process, the Chamber ended up with three areas of work to prioritize. Everything they do now must pass the test of supporting one of those areas. According to the Three Year Strategic Plan:
“Advance Union County is OUR Chamber’s three-year initiative to promote our strengths, expand our existing businesses and business opportunities, and significantly improve the economic future for all who call Union County home. Our priorities will focus on the following:
Support Balanced Economic Growth – Facilitate sustainable economic growth through business development and assist in the creation of employment opportunities that enhance the quality of life for Union County residents.
Enhance Value to Members – Create opportunities for our members to grow and develop their businesses.
Be the Voice of Business – Represent the common needs of Union County businesses.”
Kahle credits the strategic plan for the improvements they’ve seen over the past year.
The changes being implemented behind the scenes are represented outwardly by the Chamber’s rebranding. According to their Annual Report, the vibrant new green and orange colors represent the excitement, warmth, health, and vitality of our community. They also reflect the Chamber’s commitment to the future and to embrace “change as needed to meet the needs of our members and our community.”
The new logo has a woven look, reminding us of our connectedness and diversity. And the word “Chamber” has been made the solid foundation of the logo, reflecting the focus of meeting responsibilities and standing firm with members and the community. The Chamber website homepage displays a video of the new logo reveal that incorporates keywords from their mission statement, “The Union County Chamber of Commerce champions business growth and prosperity through leadership, advocacy, connectivity, and education.”
While this is a new path and a rebranding for the Chamber, it is, in a way, also a rebranding for Kahle. She worked for decades in finance, small business, and banking before becoming Chamber President. “That first day I can remember sitting in the chair, thinking, ‘What do I know about running a Chamber?’ But as I began to think about it, some of the skills sets I used in banking- customer service, bringing value, making sure that you’re transparent, keeping a good eye on the financials, just running a good organization- all transferred here.”
Kahle also referenced the years she spent starting a small business with her husband. She continued, “So I understand our small business members when they tell us this is taking place, or I have a concern about that. I get that because I’ve been there.” Kahle has been there, and taken a pivot to help others out of her experience. Now both Kahle and the Chamber have a new direction.
Businesses owners interested in finding out more about the Union County Chamber of Commerce can check out their website at www.unioncountycoc.com, call 704-289-4567, or email info@UnionCountyCoC.com.