The 2017 Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was a time for us to reflect on what we did in 2016 and where we are going this year. We kicked the meeting off by showing a great video showcasing the community’s accomplishments from 2016. Check it out:

Michel’ Cole, Westar Energy, emceed the program and did a great job keeping the audience engaged and listening, as well as transitioning between the speakers. We recognized four remarkable people before our speakers started. These four individuals were key to the organization’s success in 2016.  

Kyle Mead, Lawyers Title of Topeka, was awarded an Award of Excellence for diligent work to help ensure that each of our members receives a on-on-one visit from a Chamber representative. He promotes engagement while instilling a sense of pride that each individual company is part of a larger network of organizations. Gary Knoll, Berberich, Trahan & Co., CPA who has dedicated himself to promoting fellow businessess and supporting new members. The third award went to Morgan Chilson, the Topeka Capital-Journal, for her unbiased journalism and tactful approach to covering stories about Topeka. Her writing has resulted in more community pride and a well-informed public. The final award went to a long standing board member who has attended more than 300 events in his time, Randy Goldsmith, CBRE. His commitment to serving his volunteers and working with them is unparalleled. 

The first speaker was the Chamber’s 2015-2016 board chair, Brent Boles, Schendel Lawn & Landscape. Before he started his speech he wanted to recognize an individual who has been key to his success as board chair. Brad Owen, Mize Houser & Company P.A., has been dedicated to helping the Chamber be successful.

Boles spoke about how 2016 was a year of change for our organization, he led off with one of his favorite quotes

“Everyone here may or may not be aware of the major changes that have taken place over the course of 2016. Over the last year we have adopted a new staff of leaders, Mr. Matt Pivarnik included, created a new image for ourselves and taken on innovative tasks as a Chamber to make ourselves more relevant and valuable to our members and community,” said Boles.

Boles continued by acknowledging that the Chamber has continued moving forward and to succeed through the change that was happening. “We have not stalled; in fact, we’re moving forward with the momentum.”

Boles spent some time highlighting accomplishments that the Chamber has achieved in 2016.

  • The Small Business Council was established to better meet the needs of our small business members in the community. Lonnie Williams will be the inaugural chair of the council.
  • In Fall 2016, the Chamber and over 70 people attended an Expedition to Des Moines. While on that Expedition, they learned about growing a positive and progressing community. This year was a record number of attendees that included several elected officials.
  • The Military Relations Council was created in partnership with Melissa Jarboe, Military Veterans Project. It is the mission of the Council to recognize the contributions local members of the military make toward our economy and overall community. In doing so, the MRC hopes to facilitate appreciation and communication between our military and business communities to ensure veterans’ needs are met long-term.
  • Fast Forward re-branded to Forge, the young professional program in Topeka/Shawnee County. Forge is working to attract and retain young talent to our community. Thanks to six benefactors, Advisors Excel, Bartlett & West, Capitol Federal, FHLBank Topeka, Washburn University and Westar Energy, Forge offers free membership to everyone.
  • The kickoff of the holistic economic development strategy is a huge accomplishment for not only our organization but the whole community. This strategy will help steer the community to continue to grow and keep the momentum going.

The success is a result of support and the continued efforts of our partners: Forge, GO Topeka, EMBD, Heartland Visioning, Visit Topeka, Downtown Topeka, Inc., City of Topeka and Shawnee County.

Janet Stanek, 2017 board chair, then came to the stage to discuss where we are going this year. In 2017, the implementation of the Topeka-Shawnee County Holistic Economic Development Strategy will begin. To make sure that change is happening in our community, five goal areas were created: : develop homegrown talent, quality of life, creating a vibrant and attractive sense of place, entrepreneurial components, promote a positive image and collaborate for a strong community. Stay tuned as the strategy is finalized. 

Our members are the most important pieces to the puzzle that makes up the Chamber. “We recognize and rejoice that with every FHLBank there is a Hazel Hill Chocolate,” said Stanek. This year we will put a focus on the small business members, who make up a majority of the Chamber members. Also, we will review the events that we are hosting to make sure that it meets the needs and wants of our member base. We want to make certain that the projects that we are put our efforts behind are the projects that our members are interested in and support.

 The Chamber is going to take a bigger role in government advocacy. The Chamber is going to strengthen its presence on a local level with the assistance of the Legislative Affairs Committee and future State House Days. The State House Days will give our members the ability to see the inner workings of the legislature and share concerns with their elected officials. 

2017 is shaping up to be a busy and successful year for the Chamber and for the community. Keeping the momentum going is what is going to be important. “A mover and a shaker is characterized as both an initiator and influencer. So all of you movers and shakers in the room, keep us moving forward, help us maintain the positive momentum that we have, continue to encourage our youth and young leaders to be engaged, and let’s be standing here next year, highlighting all of the things we shook up.”

To end the meeting, Matt Pivarnik sat down with Cody Foster, co-founder of Advisors Excel. They discussed several topics about how we can keep our community moving forward. The video of the casual interview was live streamed on our Facebook page. 

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