Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Chamber of Commerce to honor members at banquet

By Michael Howell

Not many organizations can claim over a century of service in the Bitterroot. One that can is the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce, which will hold its 112th Annual Awards Banquet on Saturday, February 3 at the Bitterroot River Inn in Hamilton. The annual dinner and awards celebration, with its raffles and auction, is always a look back and a look forward as the past year’s members are honored and new officers and new board members are introduced.

Dr. Lucas Pernsteiner, owner of Bitterroot Chiropractic with offices in Hamilton and Florence, is the 2018 President. He is replacing outgoing president Chris Edwards, who serves as Vice-President/Commercial Loan Officer of TrailWest Bank in Hamilton. Susan Wetzsteon, employed at Mikesell’s Jewelry and Wetzsteon Electric in Hamilton, is President-elect. Darci Parsons, CEO at Ravalli County Federal Credit Union, is Treasurer.

New board members include Bill Capko of First Security Bank, Jaime Williams, owner of A2Z Personnel in Hamilton and Stevensville, Julie Winthers, owner of Hidden Treasures in Darby, and Scott Watters, owner of Watters Edge Design in Stevensville.

This year’s award winners include:

• Wayne Hedman – Lifetime Achievement Award

• Town Pump (4 Bitterroot locations) – Business of the Year

• Brian and April Hawkes & Steven and Caroline Hawkes – Business Persons of the Year

• RS Aesthetics (Rosalee Shorter, owner) – New Business of the Year

• Myrna Wolf (BR Chamber – MDMH Auxiliary volunteer) – Unsung Hero

• Robin Duncan (Massage by Robin, LLC) – Spark Plug Award

• Linda Massa Youth Home – Community Asset Award

• Victoria Howell (Bitterroot Star) – Laurel Award.

The Chamber is an organization with a long and successful history at fulfilling its mission of “representing each and every one of its members while amplifying the collective voice of business in an effort to advocate economic vitality, quality of life and the preservation of the competitive enterprise system,”  according to Al Mitchell, the Chamber’s Executive Director.  “Our business is your business,” and no other organization in the valley has done more to promote, educate, and network the business community in the valley.

Along with Mitchell, who also is the longtime owner of the Paper Clip in downtown Hamilton, the other paid staff member is Pat Easley, Office Manager. They and seven volunteers keep the office and the Chamber’s many programs running smoothly. Currently there are 450 members, representing retail, non-profit, industrial, medical, real estate and other business sectors in all seven communities in the valley.

What do members get out of joining the Chamber? For the answer to that, it’s probably best to ask Easley, who has been the Chamber’s office manager for 22 years, and has answered that question, as she puts it, “more times than I care to count.”

Members become part of a mutually supporting network with other local businesses. Members can display their brochures and business cards in the lobby of the Chambers information centers which is a prime place for tourists and newcomers to visit. The chamber also hosts seminars designed specifically for members to help in operating, managing or expanding a business. The Chamber Ambassadors also sponsor ribbon cuttings for businesses when they join the chamber or move to a new location or remodel, and Business After Hours where business owners can meet each other and community members to network, socialize, and promote their businesses.

Every year the Chamber also hosts a membership barbecue for members and families and hosts monthly luncheons at various sites up and down the valley.

The Chamber office staff and volunteers greet thousands of visitors every year and not all of them are tourists. In addition, they field thousands of telephone calls inquiring about businesses in the valley and Chamber members are always referred first.

The Chamber hosts a calendar of events posted on its Facebook page and any business that is hosting an event for the community or a grand opening etc. can have a free email blast to the entire membership and have it posted on the calendar.

Chamber members are also listed on the Chamber’s website in the Directory.

There are various committees that every member has an opportunity to participate in as well as a Leads Group, made up of different types of businesses that meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

The Chamber helps promote the valley by providing organizations with hospitality bags containing an assortment of various coupons, brochures or novelty items that welcome visitors to the valley and encourage their business.

And if that isn’t enough for a business owner to consider joining, how about the chance to be honored at the banquet?

For banquet reservations and information call the Chamber office at 363-2400.

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