Jackson Chamber announces new board of directors

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce members have elected a new board of directors and the three businessmen stepping in hope to continue the organization's mission of strengthening local industry by increasing educational opportunities and expanding manufacturing.

Wade "Pee Wee" Bartles, Jeff Slinkard and Kyle Thompson were voted in to replace outgoing directors Dr. Ron Anderson, Marsha Haskell and David Hitt, who had all served the maximum time allowed, three consecutive terms of three years. Jodie Brunke was also on the ballot. The election was held at a breakfast meeting Dec. 9 and 30 percent of the membership weighed in.

Executive Director Brian Gerau said Anderson, Haskell and Hitt had been a great help to him since he became executive director in 2008 and overall were "pivotal to the growth of the chamber."

"All three of those are very intertwined in our area and in our business community," Gerau said. He believes their connections helped add energy to local business and the region.

Membership has grown to nearly 500 from about 380 in late 2008, Gerau said. Last summer, "Area" was added to the organization's name in an effort to welcome businesses from the surrounding community. There are currently members from as far south as Sikeston, Mo., and as far north as St. Louis.

Though there has been an emphasis on getting new members, Gerau said, the chamber values and wants to retain existing members and to make sure everyone is getting a good return on their investment.

"It's a low cost way to promote their business," Gerau said, who listed the networking opportunities and use of free chamber facilities and business tools as major perks. The annual membership, which starts at $80 and increases depending on business size, allows access to a free meeting room, reduced rate bulk mailing facilities and free weekly mass email marketing and promotion of events. The chamber also has access to consultants that can help with budgeting, marketing and analysis.

Gerau believes the new board will expand resources that help members respond to market trends.

"There's more of a finance-driven experience with all of them, which I think is going to be key to the chamber," he said.

Jeff Slinkard is a certified public accountant at Baer & Edington LLC. He hopes to increase opportunities for business owners to gain specialized education to help them succeed.

"We are in uncharted territory," Slinkard said. "We've never seen the volatility that exists in the economy presently."

Slinkard said he would bring a "conservative, fiscally-responsible approach" to the board and would like to see members vote on topics of interest that could be explored in business seminars and roundtables at the chamber.

Thompson is vice president of commercial lending at The Bank of Missouri in Jackson. He agrees with Slinkard on the benefits of learning from experienced business leaders.

"I think there are a lot of young professionals out there that would have a lot to gain from events like that," Thompson said.

Thompson also sees potential areas of growth for Jackson in the manufacturing industry and in postsecondary education. He'd like to see the expansion of existing companies such as Procter & Gamble and Nordenia U.S.A. Inc. and to attract new manufacturing interests, he said.

Thompson believes people tend to stay in areas where they receive higher education and thinks training and educational opportunities, possibly through satellite classrooms of existing schools and colleges, could enrich the area with qualified workers.

Bartles wants to strengthen the relationship between Jackson industry and the public education community. Formerly the assistant vice president of commercial lending at Commerce Bank in Cape Girardeau, he is now the chief financial officer for the Jackson R-2 School District. He feels that local industry and schools are instrumental in attracting residents and businesses to the area.

"We are all on the same team," Bartles said. "If we are both strong, it promotes growth."

Anyone interesting in learning more about the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce can call 243-8131 or visit it online at www.jacksonmochamber.org.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

Pertinent address:

125 E. Main St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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