By Katherine Harrington, President & CEO, West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce
The journey to being one of three nominees in the nation (our first time applying!) for the national Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ Chamber of the Year Award started when I became President & CEO of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce on April 1, 2020. At this time, the world was grappling with a 100-year pandemic of epic proportions. This became a pivotal time in the Chamber world as well as in our city and businesses. We have had countless people ask us how we got to this prestigious point, and I wanted to reflect on the work that we have done and thank everyone for helping us get here. It is about a team effort of people who are kick ass problem solvers who have an intense passion to help others. Here are some of our many key points of pride since 2020 (in no particular order):
- Our chamber produces over 150 cutting edge events each year and organizes over 50 ribbon cutting celebrations.
- Our team has created 25 new programs & events in the last two years.
- The WDM Leadership Academy is into its 15th year that includes key pillars of serving others, community, and self.
- The WDM Leadership Academy Alumni has initiated a statewide Day of Kindness including a proclamation by the Governor.
- West YP for young professionals and YURtern for summer interns program have seen exponential growth.
- Two new team members were added to our organization including a new membership director and talent attraction coordinator.
- The new 515 West Magazine was published that spotlights our city in print and digital. Plus, the team is going to be advertising its contents in key cities around the nation to help attract desperately needed workforce.
- We created a groundbreaking license partnership with BetterCulture that helps organizations understand the 56 key tenants that create great culture to help attract and retain a world class workforce.
- Three new committees were added including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion; Explore WDM; and WDM Leadership Alumni.
- The international Athene Black & Brown Business Summit was created by the DEI Committee (that others are replicating around the country) and draws 500+, includes 60 speakers, 2 keynotes, 10 breakout sessions, has given $52,000 to minority business owners in a pitch competition, includes the Mel Essex Award, and raises money for area non-profits.
- The DEI Committee created Minority Business Week that spotlights minority businesses owners to help accelerate their business.
- The DEI Workplace Excellence Awards honors 11 organizations and people doing great work in the region, raises funds for area non-profits, and provides scholarships to the WDM Leadership Academy and a local student.
- The Raccoon River Rally fall festival includes cardboard boat races, bands, beers, bikes, and raises money for the Athene Pedestrian Bridge, and draws thousands to Raccoon River Park. This year we are featuring The Nadas.
- We created the Best of the West Awards & Celebration that highlights 50 businesses and people in community voting that over 8,000 have participated in.
- We added the weekly WDM Newsletter that reaches near 5,000 and highlights what is going on in our growing city. We also added the monthly “Influencer” Newsletter, that enjoys a 39% open rate.
- Social media feeds have grown from reaching 9,000 to over 14,000 highly engaged visitors, further helping to impact our city.
- Over $100,000 has been raised that has gone to other non-profit organizations and small business owners.
- For the first time in the history of our Chamber, we have reached the 1-million-dollar mark.
- Our expert team is highly involved in community and regional pursuits and collectively sit on 20 boards, commissions, and fundraising efforts.
- We created new events including Business Survival Toolkit, WDM Edge, Tina Talks, Inspire 2022, Voices of WDM, and many more.
- The new WDM Leads program includes 4 groups led by outstanding leaders, and the highly popular Latino Trade Network.
- Our WDM Chamber Ambassador program has grown substantially in engagement and programming.
- Member growth continues to be strong with over 700 members and 30% are outside of WDM.
- The CEO INsights video series spotlights area business owners and shares the stories of how they have been successful to inspire others.
- The WDM Chamber has earned 6 awards of recognition locally, regionally, and nationally.
- We are proud to partner with the City of West Des Moines, and other area Chambers on 7 events each year including the WDM Juneteenth Celebration, WDM Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, and more.
- Our team continues to strive to be the very best and hope you will join us at some of our marquee events this fall that keep our community and chamber strong including the College Athletics Panel Luncheon Sept 8, First Responders Appreciation Breakfast Sept 14, and Raccoon River Rally Oct 8, to name a few.
The West Des Moines Chamber is just getting started. This has been a transformational time in our city, region, and world. As we continue to position West Des Moines as the best city in America to live, work, and play, we will see how we can stretch ourselves by innovating with groundbreaking ideas, further stretching our area’s imagination of how a Chamber can support our area businesses and help them be super successes. A big congratulation to our team, board, Ambassadors, members, and volunteers for all your hard work in getting us to this point. The future is bright, and we are perfectly positioned to take our Chamber, city, region, and state to the next level as we approach our 100-year anniversary in 2024. There is not a problem too big that we won’t tackle. Thank you to EVERYONE for your support. We could not do this without you. We love this city, and we love each and every one of you.