The Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce was originally formed in February of 1908, but has changed substantially over the years. What began in 1908 as a trade business organization has evolved into a strong and active partner in the growth of Cayuga County’s economy. The Chamber’s support for the local business community and non-profit sector contributes to increased prosperity and economic development, as well as an improved social and cultural climate in our area. As we prepare for the Chamber’s 110th Annual Dinner on October 23rd, it seems appropriate to take a look back at how things have changed over the last 10 years.
Location: Ten years ago, the Chamber was located on South Street just south of City Hall. However, in 2011 the Chamber moved to the newly renovated 2 State Street where the Stardust Foundation and Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA) were already located. The goal was to create strong collaboration between these organizations in order to service the business community more effectively. The Chamber’s nonprofit arm, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, now owns the building at 2 State Street. In addition to the Chamber and its programs, you can also find CEDA, SCORE/SBDC, a NY State of Health Navigator, and the United Way at 2 State Street today.
Communication: One role of the Chamber is to promote the area’s businesses and economy, and it is no surprise that our communication methods have seen some drastic changes over the last 10 years. While some of this change is due to new technologies and shifting preferences, there have also been some moves to modernize and innovate. The Chamber rebranded in 2011 with the establishment of the gear logo that you know today and a brand new website. In addition to a new logo and recently redeveloped website the Chamber has also transitioned from paper newsletters to digital communications. A weekly email and quarterly newsletter are distributed to over 1,000 inboxes with upcoming events and information about programs and Members in the News. These days you can find the Chamber on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, a long way to come from paper newsletters indeed. Over the last year, you may have seen Jessica and Amy in their weekly Facebook Live videos, #GearUpCayuga. In these weekly videos, Jessica and Amy visit Chamber members to talk about their business, upcoming events, and community activities. Always entertaining and engaging, they’ve built a strong following and even have some regulars that tune in and comment almost every week.
Programs: The Chamber is always seeking to add value for Members and the community based on specific needs and/or a shifting regulatory and economic environment. To do this, we are consistently establishing new programs for education, networking, and cost savings. While some Chamber programs have been around for quite some time (Leadership Cayuga for over 30 years, the Chamber Foundation for over 25 years, and IGNITE-Cayuga County’s Young Professionals is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year), the Chamber has continued to build on its programming. The Finger Lakes Grant Information Center (FLGIC) was established in 2011 in partnership with the Stardust Foundation. The purpose of FLGIC is to “to attract funds into Auburn and the surrounding communities of the Finger Lakes in a way that can be leveraged to create the greatest impact for the most citizens by improving the quality of life in our communities.” Then in 2012, the Chamber established a Multiple Employer Plan (MEP) 401k, which to this day provides an additional retirement planning option to employers. The idea is to leverage the 401k assets of multiple employers in order to potentially provide better rates than each employer can get on its own. The plan also provides substantial fiduciary protections, administration assistance, and discounted plan audit costs for those that require an audit. In 2013, the Chamber collaborated with Cayuga Seneca Community Action Agency (now CAP) to bring Healthcare Navigators to 2 State Street to assist individuals and businesses with accessing health insurance through the NY State of Health marketplace. Then in 2018, the Chamber worked with HelpPeople to provide a discounted Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to Chamber members that are small and medium sized employers. An EAP provides employees and their families with free and confidential assistance for a range of issues from financial counseling to mental health to substance use. An EAP can help with employee retention and improve workplace wellness. Most recently, the Chamber teamed up with Pinnacle Human Resources to offer Chamber members a discounted subscription to an online sexual harassment prevention training that is compliant with recent NY State regulations. Every employer is required to train ALL of their employees on an annual basis, and this online system could be a helpful tool for employers that prefer a digital solution. You can find more information about all of the Chambers programs and offerings on our website at cayugacountychamber.com or by calling us at 315-252-7291.
The Annual Dinner: Even the Annual Dinner itself has evolved over the last decade. In 2011, the Chamber started selecting a theme for each dinner as the basis for the evening’s programming. Due to growing attendance, the dinner was relocated to the Emerson Park Pavilion in 2013. By 2016 there were over 300 people attending each year, and it became clear that those in attendance really wanted to talk to each other. This was great! Networking is a core value of the Chamber, so we eliminated the keynote speech component of the program in favor of a slideshow showing photographic content related to the theme. This new networking-focused approach has worked, and the event has only continued to grow with over 330 people attending last year. This year we hope to continue that trend. For the 110th Annual Dinner, we’ll be doing exactly as I am in this article: taking a look at the history of the Chamber. The people, the places, the events, the programs. If you’d like to join us this year, visit cayugacountychamber.com/annualdinner to register. The Dinner this year will be at the Emerson Park Pavilion on October 23rd starting at 5:30pm. Registration closes on October 15th, so don’t wait! We look forward to celebrating with you.