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Campaign Kick-Off: Converging for Success

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March 01, 2017
The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s five-year strategic plan has technically been underway since early last December, but it officially launched Wednesday, February 22 with the “Converging for Success” Campaign Kick-Off event.

Several business leaders and members of the community gathered inside TP Country Club to learn more about the plan, how it will be executed, and the positive and far-reaching impact it will ultimately have on the entire area.

The Reverend John Bussman, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and a Chamber Board Member, provided the invocation, asking for the blessing of the evening and campaign as it’s carried out.Jim Page, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, addresses the crowd at the Converging for Success Campaign Kick-Off.

Outgoing Chamber Chair Sammie Danford, Director of United Way of Cullman County, and incoming Chamber Chair Jason Spann, General Manager at American Proteins, Inc. in Hanceville, opened with brief remarks before handing the floor to Cullman Internal Medicine’s Dr. Jeremy Stidham, who spoke on behalf of himself and fellow Campaign Co-Chair Jason Grimmett, Vice President of Drinkard Development, Inc.

Dr. Stidham, who moved to the area in the fifth grade, has come to consider himself an “official Cullmanite.” He describes Cullman as the “idyllic” community and wants to do his part to make it more accommodating and inviting to professionals both near and far.

“Why would you not want to be in my idyllic community?” Dr. Stidham said during his address. “That’s what this campaign is about. It’s about bringing together a group of people who have the ability to make this community grow to what it should be, what it can be.”

Chamber CEO and President Leah Bolin took the podium next, breaking down the campaign’s four primary initiatives — Community Development, Existing Business Growth and Professional Business Sector Recruitment, Entrepreneurship and Education, and Business and Community Advocacy — and the main objectives each is meant to tackle. Bolin stressed the campaign is the culmination of more than 100 interviews with business and area leaders to identify the community’s needs and challenges.
“This is not my plan. This is not the Chamber’s plan,” she said. “This is your plan. This is the community’s plan.”

The President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Jim Page is no stranger to implementing a strategic plan. He followed Bolin by sharing some of his experiences from Tuscaloosa’s own relatively recent campaign and explaining the role Funding Solutions, represented at the Kick-Off by Fred Mickelson, plays in the process. Funding Solutions is a Texas-based consulting firm with a successful track record assisting chambers across the country. 

Like many of the evening’s speakers, Page’s message often circled back to the campaign’s tagline — “Together we can accomplish everything.”

“It shouldn’t be on any one company’s back to carry the water on this,” he said. “It’s got to be a community effort.”

Rob Werner (Werner’s Trading Company), Brian Lacy (Cullman Electric Cooperative), Tom “Big Doc” Williamson (Cullman Veterinary Hospital) and Peggy Smith (Cullman City Economic Development Agency) also spoke, offering their personal perspectives on the importance of the campaign. Werner and Lacy are respective co-chairs for separate initiatives. Smith has agreed to take personal time away from the city to serve as campaign advisor.

Bolin, Page and Mickelson stuck around after the program to field questions. Chamber staff ensured guests were given a campaign case statement as they exited.
 
THE BREAKDOWN
For those interested in learning more about the strategic plan, the case statement can be viewed at http://www.cullmanchamber.org/pages/converging-for-success. See below for a more in-depth look at the campaign’s four primary initiatives and some of the objectives each will address:
 
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Mission: Identify unmet community needs and convene/collaborate with Cullman area community partners to provide solutions to current and future quality of life challenges affecting Cullman County.
  • Housing availability/affordability
  • Renew/strengthen downtown core areas including connectivity
  • Sustainable media/marketing initiative that promotes all of Cullman County as a live, work, play community
 
EXISTING BUSINESS GROWTH & PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS SECTOR RECRUITMENT
Mission: Lead the effort to identify and recruit a diverse mix of office and professional businesses, retain and grow our existing businesses, and promote a balanced, high quality and diverse employment base throughout Cullman County.
  • Roll out “Think Local” Campaign in 2017
  • Develop a county-wide strategy to diversify Cullman County’s economic base through the successful recruitment of professional sector companies and careers
  • Add 30 new, high-quality professional/technical jobs to our Cullman area employment each year
  • Create a master plan for economic development through coalitions involving key economic development partnerships
 
ENTREPRENEURSHIP & INNOVATION
Mission: Create a culture of entrepreneurship throughout Cullman County – focusing on start ups and technology-based innovation.
  • Revitalized Business Resource Center (BRC) “Open for Business” first quarter 2017
  • Partnership with our K-12 Schools & WSCC to develop a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Establish and Develop an investors pool of money ready to be tapped into for worthy projects
  • Retaining our best and brightest
 
BUSINESS & COMMUNITY ADVOCACY
Mission: Advocate, at the local, state and federal levels of government, policies and legislation that encourage growth and promotes an environment in which business can prosper
  • Develop Chamber legislative agenda capturing key issues that business & community consider highest priorities – hand deliver to our elected officials on annual basis beginning 2017
  • Lead the efforts to advocate for ongoing public investment in transportation and infrastructure projects funding for completion of the 157/278 corridors
  • Be the “solution seeker” for issues affecting our investors, business partners & community
Contact:
Leah Bolin, President & CEO
(256) 734-0454

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