The Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce is in the best shape financially that it has been in for years, said Chamber Board President West Smith during the State of the Chamber address on Thursday, Feb. 4, during the monthly membership luncheon. In his remarks, West credited the Chamber’s leaders and volunteers for supporting the Chamber through the last year, which saw historic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government shutdowns.
“We have the hardest working leaders and volunteers who make the Chamber what it is today,” Smith said. “Thanks to the hard-working staff of [CEO] Jim Carson and [Administrative Assistant] Wanda Campbell, and the board of directors, they have continued to help strengthen the Chamber’s financial position.”
In 2019, the Chamber established a reserve fund. Even in the midst of the pandemic, the fund grew, which Smith said was a testament to the support the Chamber receives from local businesses and community residents.
“We witnessed that first hand last year when the community stepped up to support our local restaurants and businesses that were affected by the government shutdowns. We saw churches and civic organizations out working in the community,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused some Chamber events to be canceled last year, but the Chamber is working with its committees and volunteers to make sure that 2021’s events are even better than in years past.
Smith introduced the new leadership of the Chamber board: Raylene Atkinson with Emergency Hospital Systems, who is the incoming board chair for 2022; new treasurer Kari Duggar with Edward Jones Investments; and new secretary Susan Ard with Cleveland ISD.
“The Chamber board has really worked hard to strengthen our partnerships with the City, Cleveland ISD and Tarkington ISD. Our transportation committee has come full circle and is working with city, county and regional partners to really point out our transportation needs and concerns and get them the attention they need,” Smith said.
The Chamber has also created a new networking event called Thirsty Thursdays, held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month, at La Costa Seafood Restaurant, 1002 S. Washington Ave., Cleveland, and a new program called Leadership East Texas to help people strengthen their leadership skills to better serve their business and community.
“The only way we will have leaders tomorrow is if we start training them today. That is going to be really great for our area and something that is lacking right now,” Smith said. “With the help of J. Rice, hopefully our Leadership East Texas will be up and running by next September.”
According to Smith, other Chamber events to mark on your calendar are Taste of Cleveland on March 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cleveland Civic Center, 210 Peach Ave., Cleveland; Annual Awards Banquet on March 26 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Cleveland Civic Center; Outdoor Expo on June 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Stancil Exposition Center and the Cleveland Civic Center.
“This year we were not able to have our student ambassadors but we are hoping to restart that program beginning in April. In years past, we have had students from Cleveland and Tarkington, but we hope to add students from Splendora as well,” Smith said. “We are also still promoting our Love Our Community campaign that was started a few years ago. Cleveland would not be Cleveland if we did not buy local, worship local and volunteer local. You can pick up the stickers and signs from the Chamber office. I look forward to watching our Chamber grow this year and I am honored to serve as your president.”
At the Feb. 4 luncheon, the Chamber also recognized Pace-Stancil Funeral Home and Martin Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram as the Businesses of the Month for January and February, respectively. Tuff Kids Founder Eisha Jones was picked as the Citizen of the Month for February 2021 and the late Tommie Daniel, a retired educator and community volunteer, was announced as the Citizen of the Month for January 2021. Kari Duggar with Edward Jones Investments was picked as the Ambassador of the Month for February 2021.
The Chamber luncheons are held on the first Thursday of every month, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Cleveland Civic Center. For more information on the Chamber or to ask about membership, call 281-592-8786.