With over 500 members and an annual operating budget of over $2 million, the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce has been ranked the second-largest chamber in the region by the St. Louis Business Journal. Our chamber, founded in 1923, has three main operating components; the Chamber Office, the Washington Town & Country Fair, and the Washington Division of Tourism. The Town & Country Fair is the third-largest fair in the state, bringing five days of fun and entertainment to Washington every August. In 1999, a lodging tax was created, with proceeds going specifically towards marketing Washington as a tourist destination. The Director of Tourism has been employed by the Chamber since the position was created.
Our mission is to provide services that strengthen our member businesses, and enhance the local economic climate and the quality of life of area residents. We work toward our mission through partnerships with the City of Washington and Downtown Washington, Inc., paying attention to issues that affect the continued viability of existing local businesses, and attracting new business and expansion to the area. Community events are provided, in addition to our business networking and development events, to enhance the area's spirit of community, and we're proud to actively support the efforts of other organizations to do the same.
A Look Back at 2019
The past year has been a great one for building momentum at the Chamber! We've expanded a program and built a few others to strengthen our organization and the community for years to come.
The Young Professionals group was re-energized this year with a new event, the Pub Crawl, and a renewed focus on networking and development events. The group was aided by the creation of the Young Ambassadors, a joint project from the City of Washington and the Chamber, with a small leadership team tasked with developing programs/events and marketing Washington to young professionals throughout the region. The 2019 class of Outstanding Young Professionals was recognized in October, bringing the total number of honorees over the past seven years to 90.
The theme of developing future leaders carried into a new partnership between the Chamber, YMCA, School District of Washington, and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School with the creation of the Leadership Academy of Washington. The two-day event developed for incoming High School Juniors and Seniors was a huge success and left the planning committee ready to hit the ground running for next year's program. The future of Washington will be in very capable hands! **More about the Leadership Academy can be found on page 19.
Late in the year, it became clear that as a Chamber, we simply must do more to support and recognize our members. A robust plan was developed to ensure each member has a specific staff contact at the office, and staff has been charged with reaching out to their members multiple times each year - asking for feedback, ensuring chamber records are up-to-date, and making sure members know they are important to and appreciated by our organization. The program was implemented toward the end of the year, and will continue to be expanded in future years.
2019 Membership Events Included:
Business Breakfast Meeting
Ladies' Golf Day
Part-Time Job Fair
2019 Community Events Included:
Music at the Market series
Fair Kick-off Party
Pumpkin Palooza (canceled this year due to weather)
Olde Fashioned Christmas
Looking Forward to 2020 and Beyond
Building on the successes for the Young Professionals group and Leadership Academy of Washington are priorities for 2020. Building up the next generation of leaders is vital to Washington's continued success. We'll also be focusing on recognizing our members, and providing more benefits to them. Members that celebrated milestone membership anniversaries in the past year will be recognized at the Business Breakfast Meeting (new members, 5-year anniversaries), Banquet (25-, 30-, and 40-year anniversaries, plus the newly created "Chairman's Circle" for 50-year anniversaries), and Summer Mixer (10- and 20-year anniversaries). 2020 will also see the re-launch of an Education Series for members. Events will be held over lunch in the Chamber Boardroom and will include a meal, brief networking time, and an educational presentation. The first session was held in January with 25 participants, who gave very positive feedback and were grateful to see the program offered. Future topics were selected based on results from a member survey and will include:
A Closer Look at Some of Our Projects
Washington Town & Country Fair
We had an amazing year celebrating our 90th Fair with fairgoers young and old, who all enjoyed five jam-packed days of fun, food, and friends! Our board prides itself on providing something for everyone, including concerts, motorsports events, shows, exhibits, and the can't-miss Brewfest & Wing-Ding. At the end of the year, we were proud and humbled to see our local economic impact top $1 million dollars for the 18th consecutive year. It is our great honor to organize the Fair with the help of our sponsors, and we look forward to providing a great community event for many years to come.
Washington Farmers' Market
For over 20 years, our market has offered something for everyone. Open Saturday mornings, April - October, the market is host to more than 40 vendors selling local plants and produce, meat, eggs, jams & jellies, and baked goods. Crafters selling their handmade items have also found a home at the market, offering charming and unique items. The beautifully renovated historic building with pavilion guarantees customers will be covered, rain or shine at 317 West Main Street in Downtown Washington, Missouri. The Sprouts Kids Club, started in 2017, attracts children and families to the market and encourages participants (ages 3-10) to pick out and purchase their own fruits and veggies with their very own market money, earned by checking in each week!
Washington Division of Tourism
Washington has small town charm and big city amenities…offering both downhome and uptown experiences.
Washington can be your hub for both the Hermann and Augusta Wine Trails. With dozens of wineries to choose from, there is no doubt that you will find one to fall in love with.
Whether you choose a quick day-trip or decide to make a weekend out of it, be sure to visit our lively downtown district with shops that will appeal to everyone! All four seasons can be enjoyed to the fullest with Washington’s landscaping and cleanliness; so, bring your camera to capture the beauty that is Washington.
Getting here is easy by car, or train. Amtrak stops four times daily. Step-on guided tours are available for bus groups and our own tour bus (available for 6-14 passengers) may also be scheduled for a group coming in by train or car.
For more information...
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