“Our primary purpose for [chamber members] is to be visible and local as an advocate for the business community,” said Todd Shimkus, chamber president. “We try to be as innovative as possible.”
And with enterprises like the Saratoga Lip Dub and this weekend’s Cash Mob, innovation is just the beginning.
With 2,700 direct-pay affiliates, the Saratoga Countywide Chamber is the largest chamber in New York and has been identified as one of the most effective chambers in the country in terms of identifying and responding to member needs and in terms of providing economic and community leadership.
“We get things done,” said Kathleen Lucey, chamber vice president. “If someone calls us with a question, we will find out what they need to know. We never let a question go unanswered.”
This attention to detail can be seen in every aspect of the chamber’s operations, from the thoroughness of their outreach programs to the staff’s certifications. Of the five Certified Chamber Executives in the state, three are on staff at the Saratoga County Chamber.
“We’ve gone through extensive training,” said Shimkus. “We’ve made a career out of doing good things in our community.”
Those “good things” include an incredibly successful program that has been shaping our community leaders since 1985. A rigorous seven-month training course for local up-and-comers with an expansive group of alumni, Leadership Saratoga’s influence in the community is unparalleled.
“The 600+ Leadership Saratoga alumni now serve on [local nonprofit agencies’] boards and committees,” said Shimkus. “The exponential input on all of those nonprofits, and the positive leadership they provide, is a result of the training they receive.”
Acceptance into the program is competitive. Of the 50 or more applications received each year, only 24 individuals are selected for admittance. The chamber actually has to turn interested people away.
“I don’t think there are many other chambers that have that problem,” said Shimkus.
In addition to presentations covering everything from how to fundraise to ethical dilemmas, Leadership Saratoga students are exposed to actual professionals who provide both valuable insight into the inner-workings of success in Saratoga County and instant access into a world of networking opportunities.
In addition to its programs like Leadership Saratoga, the chamber provides members with unmatched benefits like inclusion in chamber publications; a steady stream of publicity; a strong, definite place in the community; discounts on things like health care and electricity; and seemingly endless networking opportunities.
“People in Saratoga do business with people they know,” said Shimkus. “And [the chamber] hosts some of the largest networking mixers in the region.”
In Saratoga, it’s all about who you know, and if you’re a chamber member, you know everyone. If you aren’t one of the chamber’s 2,700 current members, now is the time to become one. Volunteer chamber members are currently out and about inviting new members to join during their spring membership blitz campaign.
“We normally add four or five hundred memberships yearly,” said Lucey. “Two hundred of them [last year] were during our membership blitz.”
Special incentives are offered to new members who sign up during the blitz, and those who join before the 25th will receive invitations to various orientations where they will receive information on the chamber’s services. Having access to these services helps make any business a real contender in Saratoga County.
“Our area has become a global destination for tourism, talent and trade,” said Lucey. “It’s our job to get people to know that.”
For more information on how to join the chamber, be on the lookout for volunteers in your area or visit www.saratoga.org.