Happy Mother's Day!
We give thanks for so many wonderful mothers in our Chamber and our community. I've made many new friendships with outstanding businesswomen who also are mothers during my first year as Executive Director.
Many are strong, yet kind.
Many juggle numerous roles, but know how to prioritize and determine what's most important.
Many possess strong leadership and vision, but also take time to listen and understand.
Union Avenue Christian Church shared a poem that resonated with me as I remember all my late mother did for me and all my wife does for my sons.
Your Mother is always with you.
She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself.
She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day.
She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow.
Your mother lives inside your laughter.
She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take.
She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you — not time ... not space ... not even death.
It was a privilege to end the 2018 Southwest Regional Economic Summit last October at Sunset Country Club with a few simple sentences. Along with the Kirkwood and Crestwood-Sunset Hills Chamber of Commerce, we provided a forum for representatives of "Better Together" and "Cities Strong" to discuss the future of our region and a potential city-county merger.
"Developing a shared vision.
"Those are three things (our region) needs to work on. Relationships are a huge part of processes.
"I'm an Eagle Scout, my sons are Eagle Scouts and I worked for the Boy Scouts of America for 21 years. There are many in this room who know the first point of the Scout Law and it is this: Trustworthy.
And we can't go on as a region without trusting one another."
When "Better Together" on Monday announced withdrawal of a city-county consolidation proposal, those sentences came to mind. So did the lyrics of the Billy Joel song, "A Matter Of Trust," from 30 years ago:
...I can’t offer you proof
But you’re gonna face a moment of truth
It’s hard when you’re always afraid
You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must
It’s a matter of trust...
The words from the Summit and Mr. Joel aren't repeated here as an, "I told you so." (The Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce, through the leadership of its Board of Directors, doesn't advocate for or against various ballot initiatives.)
But events of the last few weeks and months damaged the trust in government and in some business leaders. Better Together failed to be open, transparent, collaborative and communicative.
During the October Summit, Pat Kelly of Cities Strong asked David Leipholtz of Better Together if his organization would not pursue a statewide vote on the city-county merger. Leipholtz didn't verbally respond but his non-verbal gestures suggested the question was irrelevant.
When Better Together revealed their plan, the statewide vote was a cornerstone.
Another element of Better Together's plan was making the St. Louis County Executive the first leader of the merged city and county. Last week, former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to three counts of public corruption for steering county contracts to campaign donors.
"The corruption in St. Louis County government also disrupted Unite STL’s efforts," wrote Mark Wrighton, chairman of Unite STL, the organization promoting the Better Together initiative, in an email on Monday. "Some people viewed it as proof that local government must change, while others believe the former county executive’s involvement tainted the process."
More from Mr. Joel:
...I’m sure you’re aware love
We’ve both had our share of
Believing too long
When the whole situation was wrong...
The Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce will continue its efforts to support businesses and communities throughout our region. Our work requires transparency, collaboration and communication in order to continually maintain or enhance trust. We hope Wrighton, civic and government leaders adopt a similar approach. Unfortunately, Wrighton, scheduled to retire as Chancellor of Washington University in June, didn't reach out to opponents on Monday. Defeated and disillusioned, Wrighton condescendingly threw stones.
“The self-interested forces fighting change should not cheer today," Wrighton wrote in the email. "They should know that we are more committed than ever to fighting for the changes needed to modernize our government so everyone in our region has a local government that keeps them safe, responds to their needs and holds down their taxes.”
To the poet, Mr. Joel, for final words:
...It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world
I can’t offer you proof
But you’re gonna face a moment of truth
It’s hard when you’re always afraid
You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must
It’s a matter of trust
Below are remarks made during the Chamber's membership luncheon on March 6, 2019. Joe Fischer Jr., a longtime member of the Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce, creator of the Chamber's Business Success Group and a recipient of the Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement Award died on Friday, March 1, 2019, after fighting cancer for many months.
There are many people in this room who knew Joe Fischer Jr. much longer and better than myself. But allow me to share my story with you as a tribute to Joe.
Joe welcomed me to the Chamber with a gift of a hand-made letter opener with a wooden handle that he crafted himself in his workshop. Some of you probably received similar gifts. As we chatted one day about his passion for wood working and knives, I mentioned how my youngest son, Ryan, loved working with wood and enjoyed blacksmithing. After that, each month Joe would bring me a stack of his magazines on knife making and wood working for Ryan.
Late last year, he told me he was in for another battle with cancer. Undaunted, he would attend Chamber luncheons. He began organizing the 2019 monthly, Business Success Group, back in August.
We had lunch with a prospective member in November. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving. Afterward, Joe shared with me how dire his prognosis was how much time he may have left. But he was steadfast and unflinching. On that sunny, but chilly, afternoon, Joe could have gone home. He could have felt sorry for himself. He could have spent the next few hours of daylight watching the birds from his back window. Instead, Joe’s car was filled with wreathes. He drove off to the cemetery and spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the graves of his family members.
A few weeks later, he emailed me and asked if my son, Ryan, would be interested in coming over to work with him in his wood shop. I wrote that Ryan wouldn’t be home from Missouri S&T at Rolla until late in December.
After I hit send, I realized I needed to talk to Ryan about Joe, his prognosis and how he would be doing God’s work. Ryan experienced a lot of death of loss for a 19-year-old. When he was 3 or 4, our next door neighbor was a grandfather Ryan never had. Jim was always talking with Ryan over the fence… playing catch, letting him walk his dog and squirt him with the garden hose on hot summer days. When Jim died suddenly, Ryan was crushed.
When Ryan became best buddies with his Scout leader, Bill. They loved archery, telling funny stories, and especially cooking as Bill was a chef. We returned from a family vacation during that summer before Ryan started fifth grade to tragic news. Bill, Ryan’s kindred soul, had taken his own life. There’s no easy or expedient way to help a fifth grader through that intense grief.
And just two years ago, Ryan struggled when my mother died of Alzheimer’s at age 90.
Ryan and I talked about Joe, cancer and time… precious time… We made our first visit to Joe’s house in late December. Joe appreciated Ryan’s love of craftsmanship and eagerness to learn. And Ryan knew Joe needed help to finish many projects… and one special project.
The night before Ryan returned to Rolla for his second semester in mid-January, he joined his mother and I for nightly prayers. Afterward, his mother’s brow furrowed and her eyes darted back and forth. “Aren’t you going to give your father something?… NOW… Aren’t you?”
Ryan paused, walked toward his room, hesitated, and then came back into our room.
“Dad, Joe and I made this for you,” Ryan said. “Joe didn’t want me to give it to you until you taught the March session of his business group.
"He told me how he gave people knives as gifts for helping others. But I’m not sure if I’ll be home before March to give it to you… and Joe was pretty sure he knew he wasn’t going to be able to give it to you in March.”
I attended a funeral on Saturday for a man I never met. Even though I didn’t personally know my friend’s father-in-law, I felt like I knew him after hearing the stories about him.
You might not have known Joe Fischer. But I hope my story helps you know a man who possessed tireless enthusiasm to help others, a passion for helping them succeed in their business or career, and unselfishly recognized others without expecting anything in return.
And for Ryan… there’s no greater blessing than to have a son or daughter who inspires you to become a better person. Sometimes, people just know what to do and they do the right thing… no matter how emotionally challenging that may be.
May all of you be blessed with someone special who helps you grow in service to others.
We welcomed almost 30 members and prospective members today to the first of two sessions on the "1-Page Marketing Plan" by Allan Dib. Kelly O'Daniel, our Director of Communications, co-presented with me as we reviewed all nine chapters of the book in less than one hour.
If you didn't get a chance to attend today's session, you're welcome to attend our second session. It's free to members and $10 for non-members. (Please email me if you need a book as only a few remain.)
Plan to join us 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, at "The Big Idea Room" at 1400 South Highway Drive (the same building where our office was located up until August of 2018.) Click here to register for the second session...
Below are the handouts from today's presentation and the audio recording of the session.
Financial strength and stability are essential for all successful non-profit organizations.
Our Chamber of Commerce possesses a legacy of financial strength and proper stewardship. Our sustainability can be attributed to membership retention and the participation of our members in our activities, advertising and sponsorship programs.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, our Board of Directors possess three strong traits:
The Board then requested a market analysis of the annual budgets, membership fees and other cost structures of similar Chambers in our region. The research revealed our Chamber membership fees are far below the average of approximately 12 neighboring Chambers in the region.
As they reviewed historical financial performance, they noted 2018 will be the third straight year of deficit spending. (However, the 2018 deficit was planned to cover the cost of an executive transition.) If deficit spending continues, the Chamber would exhaust its reserves and cease to exist in a few years.
For the first time since 2015, the Board unanimously voted to restructure and increase membership fees, effective Jan. 1, 2019. The number of employee-tiered classifications will be reduced from nine to five. Partnership fees also will increase.
Even with the increase, three levels of membership fees will be below the market average and two will be at the average price.
After the Board unanimously approved the membership fee increase, it enabled them to unanimously pass a budget for 2019 with a 1-percent surplus.
No member services will be eliminated or reduced next year, nor will there be any staff reductions or salary increases. However, funds were approved for creating an employee retirement savings program.
When our members renew their membership with our Chamber—or a new business joins—the membership fee contributes to the fulfillment of our mission: promoting and supporting businesses throughout our region. Our member retention rate of greater than 85 percent shows our businesses value the Chamber’s mission and achievements.
Our staff and the Board of Directors pledge to continuously improve all aspects of our membership services and benefits. We hope you will continue to be a part of our organization as we serve businesses in our community and region.
Our Board of Directors possesses three strong traits:
As we reviewed our financial performance during the last few years and our membership growth during the past decade, it became clear that Maritz’s contribution of office space enabled measurable gains in membership and increases in the quality and quantity of various services to our business community in Fenton and the region.
In late August, our offices relocated to the north side of the Maritz campus. Mark Alspaw, the Vice President of Real Estate and Property Services at Maritz, and his team of associates helped us avoid almost all interruptions to our operations and customer services. They also provided additional signage.
As part of the Board’s ongoing review, they analyzed our new operating environment, our ability to serve our members, customers and the general public, and the Chamber’s ability to serve people throughout the region. This review led to formation of a steering committee to focus on finding an optimal location for our offices.
The steering committee requested our members be informed of our needs and solicited their assistance in this process. We will be searching for office space that meets the following specifications:
If you would like to suggest an office or a location, please contact Joe Mueller, Executive Director, at email@example.com or (636) 717-0200.
A December tradition for our Chamber is recognizing members for outstanding service and contributions. Searching back through our photograph archives triggered so many feelings of gratitude. The names and faces of so many community leaders are inspirational.
Plus, we can't afford not to take the time to praise someone who is deserving of recognition for their devotion and service. Join us for our annual recognition luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at Andre’s West. Register…
Last week, our members received via email an invitation to nominate worthy members of our Chamber for recognition. Nominations end on Monday, Nov. 19.
Here are the categories:
Ambassador of the Year: Nominate a member of our Ambassadors Committee who displayed outstanding and thorough assistance to members and guests at our luncheons and other events.
Rising Star: Nominate a new member or a young professional who is a member and consistently supports our mission and is an emerging leader in our organization and the community.
Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement: In honor of the late Norma Radeackar, a former Executive Director, nominate the person to be recognized for years of consistent service and devotion to our organization.
Chamber Spirit: Nominate an individual who exemplifies the core attributes of our organization at all of our events—helpfulness, kindness, hospitality and positive attitude.
New Member Business of the Year: Nominate a new Chamber member/business with a tenure of one year or less and has been engaged and supportive of the organization’s activities and mission.
2018 Business of the Year: Nominate a Chamber member for outstanding ethical business practices and service to the community and their customers.
Here are photographs and recipients from previous years:
Ambassador of the Year: Jeffrey Wolf, HealthMarkets Insurance
Rising Star: Courtney Hoff, Express Employment Professionals
Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement Award: Scott Borlinghaus, Fabick CAT
Spirit Award: Teresa Sparks, Farmers Insurance - Sparks Agency
Volunteer of the Year: Karen Mize, Carrollton Bank
New Members of the Year: Tammy Elkins, Divine Energy Studio; Rhino Hyde Productions
Board Member of the Year: Lori St. Clair, On Target For Profitable Growth
Business of the Year: Fabick CAT, Celebrating 100 Years!
Ambassador of the Year: Russ Ahlheim, Ad Source One; Angela Reynolds, U.S. Bank
Rising Star: Jim Winslow, Jr., Sky Zone, Fenton
Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement Award: Joe Fischer, Jr., Fischer Christoff Bartmess, Advisors
Spirit Award: Rob Schneider, Leader Publications
Volunteer of the Year: Suzie Smith, Suzie Paints
New Member of the Year: Nothing Bundt Cakes, Chesterfield
Board Member of the Year: Chuck Winkle, Maritz
Business of the Year: UniQue Ideas ‘N More
Ambassador of the Year: Tracy Dickey, American Eagle Credit Union; Karen Fox, Karen THE Connector
Rising Star: Kristie Gabel, Elite Cuisine, LLC
Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement Award: Diane Bade, UniQue Ideas ‘N More
Spirit Award: Thad James, SAMMY J Balloon Creations
Board Member of the Year: Greg Bresler, Andre’s Banquets & Catering
Outstanding Community Volunteer (Presented by Fenton Days Committee): Angela Reynolds, U.S. Bank
Small Business of the Year: Victorian Sales, Inc.
Mid-Size Business of the Year: SERVPRO of Fenton/South Ballwin
Large Business of the Year: Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs
New Member of the Year: Josh Voyles, Keller Williams Southwest
Service to the Chamber: Creative Mailers
Volunteer of the Year: Darlys Preslar, Supporters for Fenton Dog Park
Chamber Spirit Award: Angela Reynolds, U.S. Bank
Board Member of the Year: Jodi Clinton, Commerce Bank
Small Business of the Year: Team Activities for Special Kids (T.A.S.K.)
Mid-Size Business of the Year: Mercy Clinic
Large Business of the Year: Special School District
New Member of the Year: American Eagle Credit Union
Service to the Chamber: Krieg Lohbeck & Company CPAs, LLC
Volunteer of the Year: Megan Bresler, Carrollton Bank
Spirit Award: Linda Branham, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Jan Mullaney, SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills
Board Member of the Year: Paul Carcagno, Fortune Insurance
Collaboration is essential.
If there was one common theme or message presented at the third annual Southwest Regional Economic Summit on Oct. 17, 2018, those three words provided an accurate summation.
More than 100 people gathered at Sunset Country Club for presentations and a discussion by Better Together STL and Cities Strong. The event was presented by of the Crestwood-Sunset Hills, Kirkwood-Des Peres and Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Internal competition, disparity in services and a lack of vision for regional success are three impediments to successful growth in our region, according to David Leipholtz, Director of Community-Based Studies for Better Together STL. Leipholtz, a former history teacher at Lindbergh High School, offered to visit or speak with any group in the region about their organization. He emphasized the rumors about Better Together STL—those around pushing for a merger of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County and a statewide vote mandating the merger—were false.
Leipholtz shared a story he heard from a recruiter in St. Louis that painted a picture of our current situation. Allow me to paraphrase:
What if you had the choice of eating at a restaurant with a Grade A rating by the health department or a Grade C? Most people would choose the Grade A restaurant. But, what if I told you that if you went to the Grace C restaurant and ordered the chicken dish, you would not get sick?
That’s the dilemma we’re facing in our region. We’re not at a Grade A level, but you can move or start a business here in a very selective way and not be harmed.
Pat Kelly and Jim Brasfield represented Cities Strong. Brasfield emphasized the need to collaborate and for cultivating leadership.
“There are no heroes,” Brasfield said, “just us.”
Kelly noted several problems caused by the lack of a leader and leadership throughout the region. He also predicted a formula for improving the region.
“Economic growth with follow population growth,” Kelly said.
It was an honor to end the program with some closing comments. Thanks to my good friend, David Straub, for sending me the recording.
The St.Louis Regional Chamber invited me to attend a presentation by Better Together STL in June. David Leipholtz, Director of Community-Based Studies, asked a simple question: If our region possesses outstanding resources--world-class resources--why are we struggling to thrive and complete?
Leipholtz and Kyle Juevers, Associate Director of Community-Based Studies, will attempt to answer this question during the Southwest Regional Economic Summit. We'll start with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Sunset Country Club and adjourn by 9 a.m.
Cities Strong, an organization dedicated to fostering and engaging in regional collaboration, also will make a presentation. They'll be represented by their President, Jim Brasfield, and Pat Kelly, a member of the Board of Directors and currently with the St. Louis Municipal League.
Click here to register as we begin a dialogue and have a conversation about how we can better communicate, collaborate and develop a shared vision for our region. If we all can agree that any organization must improve efficiencies and lower costs, we have a good place to start.
The front table at our October membership luncheon was full as candidates for Missouri State Representative, candidates for St. Louis County offices and spokespersons for a number of ballot initiatives joined us for an election-year forum at Andre's West.
Thanks to Paul Carcagno, President of the Board of Directors, for moderating the event. With more than 13 speakers, each person was limited to three minutes. Paul diffused any tension at the beginning of the event by informing the candidates and spokespeople he would treat them the way he treats his children when they won't stop talking: "I'll just take your phone away."
We received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the event. All were appreciative of the candidates and spokespeople respecting the time constraints. We received the most feedback on the courtesy and respect the candidates showed to one another.
The November, 2018, ballot in St. Louis County will be the longest ever assembled. We always encourage voters to be knowledgeable of the candidates and issues before they head to the polls. However, this year some additional time spent reviewing the ballot will save themselves and their fellow voters time at the ballot box.
Review your ballot by visiting the St. Louis County Polling Place and Sample Ballot Lookup.
The PDF below contains the sample ballot for my residence:
The Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce supports, promotes & encourages shopping local and keeping business in Fenton. The organization also serves as a link between our members and the community, providing members with tools to succeed in business through networking, marketing, and educational opportunities.