Jasper Chamber continues as hub for businesses

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — It’s a catalyst for business growth, a convener of people and a champion of a thriving community.

For generations, the Jasper Chamber of Commerce has implemented a three-C approach to better connect those who work in the city and give them a collective voice.

At this morning’s Jasper Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide officially proclaimed the week of July 7-13 as the Jasper Chamber of Commerce Week. The group is currently celebrating its 65th anniversary.

“We underestimate, sometimes, the value of what the Chamber does,” Vonderheide said after reading through the proclamation.

The local chamber’s reach is significantly broader than organizing ribbon-cutting ceremonies to welcome new businesses.

According to Nancy Eckerle, the executive director of the chamber, a group of merchants, industry people and business owners assembled in 1954 to form the city organization. They felt that a need existed for the group to unite business people under a shared umbrella.

“We have the courage to stand up for what we believe in,” said Eckerle, who has worked as the chamber’s director since October of 1987. “And that’s important.”

The chamber has 400 members — representing nearly 12,000 employees — who provide citizens with “a strong business environment that increases employment, the retail trade and commerce, and industrial growth in order to make Jasper, Indiana a great place to live and to operate a business,” a press release reads.

Most of the local organization’s funding comes from membership dues and special projects that generate dollars, like the annual Home Expo event, which is designed to showcase members and highlight their work.

During its run, the chamber has brought together the business community to fight for its interests. When they want to voice their opinions as one cohesive unit, they first contact is Eckerle. And their combined strength can be powerful.

When Dubois County was poised to make a move to Central Time, for example, chamber members advocated strongly against the change. In the end, the city remained on Eastern Time.

“And it’s because the businesses spoke up, but they spoke through the voice of the chamber to do that,” Eckerle said.

The chamber has ties to the Small Business Development Center, Indiana WorkOne, the Better Business Bureau, Indiana Main Street, Radius Indiana, Dubois Strong and many other agencies throughout the county and the state.

It partners with other organizations to provide programs and workshops on a variety of topics — the goal of these programs being to update members on hot topics and give them an opportunity to meet one another.

The chamber also hosts a series of legislative breakfasts each year that allow residents to mingle with elected officials at the state level.

Chamber representatives contributed to the city’s newest comprehensive plan — which is currently available to read at ImpactJasper.com — and Eckerle envisions the organization being a part of the city’s evolution for years to come.

“We want to make sure that we bring people to the table,” Eckerle said. “We get involved in things going on in the community.”

Tom Moorman, president of the 16-member chamber board, remembers how when he moved Elliott Equipment Corporation from Martinsville to Jasper in 1996, he went straight to the chamber.

“I think Nancy is the hub of all the businesses that are in our city,” he said. “And although they’re independently-owned businesses, I think they’re all connected to the chamber. I think that everybody is interconnected, networked through the chamber.”




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