Chamber of Commerce celebrating 100th year

This week, members of the Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services gathered for our 99th annual meeting to celebrate individual and collective achievements; to review the accomplishments of our organization; and to set the stage for our centennial celebration next year.

The scope of the chamber cuts across two primary lines of business: chamber operations and visitor services, which we brand Destination Seneca County. We also operate three affiliate organizations, the Tiffin Area Safety Council, the Seneca County Industrial Management Council and the Seneca County Human Resource Association. Following is an overview of each of our functional areas:

We’ve been in the tourism business for nearly two years. In that time, we’ve made significant strides in positioning Seneca County as a destination location.

We were, once again, the first to market with our 2013 Visitor Guide, which is available at all major distribution points throughout the state, including the Ohio Turnpike and Travel Information Centers, as well as major tourism venues. It has become a very popular piece. During the peak travel month of July, its distribution eclipsed that of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Our visibility has grown. We’ve been featured on Neil Zurcher’s One Tank Trips as well as WBGU’s Scenic Stops. We completed a new website and Facebook page as well as produced a DVD and 30-second commercial which we will begin airing in 2014.

We’re also actively involved in the Artistry in American Glass Show to be at the Civic Community Center Nov. 9-10. Ten of the top national glass dealers from as far away as Louisiana and Texas will be in attendance. In the future, we believe we can position Tiffin as the home of a major national glass show.

Our results speak for themselves. Lodging tax revenues continue to increase exponentially, as do county gross receipts. Through September, we hosted more than 30 tour groups representing more than 1,000 tourists; we fulfilled nearly 400 e-mails requesting information; we answered 1,000 phone calls and logged more than 5,500 website visits and 3,000 Facebook visits. We’ve already scheduled four groups into 2014 and landed our first convention in June 2015. (National Postmark Convention).

As for Chamber Operations, we continue to expand and refine our program of work. This past year, we welcomed the Seneca County Human Resource Association under our umbrella. The association provides a forum for local human resource professionals to network, refine their skills and improve their knowledge base at monthly luncheons.

Our other affiliate organizations, the Tiffin Area Safety Council and the Seneca County Industrial Management Council, continue to grow and prosper. Recently, our Safety Council stepped up to provide much-needed funding and volunteer assistance for the Safety Town program in Tiffin City Schools grades K-5.

We continue to nurture potential new business owners. Our Business Basics seminar, conducted monthly, has attracted 30 individuals interested in owning or operating a business, while another 27 were privately counseled.

While our manufacturing sector has witnessed significant growth, 30 of our retail and services sector businesses also celebrated significant milestones as our Ambassadors joined with them for ribbon- cuttings and other congratulatory activities. We continue to stimulate local purchasing by initiating several Cash Mobs and dispersing more than $6,500 in Chamber Cash.

On the education front, we continue, with others, to advocate for the development of a career-based curriculum. Our manufacturing community, while growing, continues to face challenges hiring qualified employees. This was clearly evident at our Seneca County Jobs Fair in early May, another activity in which we were actively involved. We recently completed our annual welcome back program for Heidelberg University and Tiffin University students and this year co-sponsored the first Tiffin Welcomes the World program for the more than 200 international students at a meet-and-greet with the business community.

Finally, we capped the opening of the school year by recognizing coach, teacher and mentor Paul Miletti as our Outstanding Educator at our annual New Teachers and Administrators welcoming breakfast in August.

Two weeks ago, we concluded our fourth Downtown Tiffin Farmers Market season. This event, on the second Saturday in June through October, has become one of our signature events, drawing hundreds to each of our six markets.

Recently, we modified our logo to mark the beginning of our centennial year. Other anniversary programs are being developed. As we complete a century of service, we note the continual evolution of the Chamber in meeting the growing needs of the Tiffin and Seneca County community.

Our variety and scope of activities are unlimited. While we originally were organized to represent and promote the area’s business economy, encourage business and industrial investment, broaden the tax base and provide employment, the chamber has become increasingly involved initiating private-sector action on the major issues affecting our quality of life.

Our original charter, dated Sept. 11, 1914, stated the corporation was formed for the purpose of advancing the civic and business interests of the city of Tiffin and Seneca County. Today, nearly 100 years later, that mission has not changed.