Workshops kick off 51st state chamber gathering

Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce kicked off its 51st Annual Fall Conference and Business Trade Show on Monday with a series of workshops designed to show Alaska businesses what various organizations can do for them.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Representatives from chambers of commerce from across the state, plus some independent businesspeople, turned up for a chance to gain some insider insight.

"We're thrilled to be the host city this year," said the Juneau Chamber's chief executive officer, Cathie Roemmich. "Any community is very fortunate when the conference is in town."

The annual conference rotates between Alaska cities each year. It was last here in 2004.

Roemmich said the conference can bring in around 200 people from all over the state.

Chamber members from Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seward, Sitka, Palmer, Wasilla and others showed up to learn about chamber member satisfaction and development.

Jim Durland, president of Chamber Max in Seattle, gave a lecture about helping chambers nationwide cater their programs to fit the needs of their members. He said this was important in teaching Alaska's chambers about both obtaining and retaining members.

"A chambers is the collective voice of business and a way to promote and generate more business," he said. As such, he focuses on telling the ones here about how to be the voice of businesses that don't have time to represent themselves. He also talked about gauging member satisfaction, effective communication and enhancing member value.

"Chambers are probably the most vital business organization helping businesses succeed and are comprised of some of the leading business owners from their individual cities from small business to big business," he said.

Other workshops addressed various topics for local business owners, including marketing strategies, financing, social media and government affairs.

Both small and large organizations had a presence in these workshops. Nelida Irvine, a lender relations specialist, represented the U.S. Small Business Administration. She was there to provide information to business leaders on the SBA's role in helping to access capital, government contracting programs and counseling and mentoring services.

She said SBA helped secure 139 loans in Alaska last year that totaled more than $29 million.

Another presenter was Richard Wolk, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship at University of Alaska Southeast. He presented his participatory action research called Green Gazelles, where Alaska entrepreneurs can work on increasing their hiring numbers and becoming more environmentally positive.

He said the research also concentrates on using social media to determine who would be the best opinion leaders for different segments in individual markets.

• Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at

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