Chamber of Commerce begins the New Year

The Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off the New Year by hosting the weekly Chamber Coffee event Thursday morning, using the opportunity to introduce new and returning board members and give a picture of the year’s goals.


Deb Needleman is the 2017 president of the chamber’s board of directors, beginning the third and final year of her current term on the board, which has 15 members from different businesses and organizations around Fort Scott. There are also six full and part-time employees of the chamber.

The board has three divisions, including downtown, tourism and business resource and development, which also is involved with legislative affairs.

The board held a strategic planning meeting in November, when Needleman said they considered “vision for what they wanted to do this year.”

Some programs and events which will be held once again under the business resource and development division include the LEAD Bourbon County program, which will run from August through the following May; an entrepreneurial book club that meets Monday evenings; and a legislative update to be held during the current session.

The local visioning committee also decided to hand off the workforce development aspect of their committee to the business division of the chamber, who will work with the city and Fort Scott Community College to host events such  as Manufacturing Day.

The downtown division will continue to organize events such as the Good Ol’ Days, Christmas and Halloween parades. They will also be a resource for the city concerning developing and preserving the downtown structures.

The tourism division went through some changes from previous years, starting a roundtable group to discuss ideas with those interested in promoting the area.

“Good things are going on there,” Needleman said of the marketing and packages offered to out-of-town visitors, which may include a wine stroll this year. “We do have a lot of things to offer now—a lot of diverse, different things that do attract people.”

Both Needleman and Executive Director Lindsay Madison emphasized the importance of the chamber members, whose membership fees, sponsorships and involvement help keep the chamber active.

“We don’t take that for granted,” Madison said, saying their Chamber Coffees, for example, are some of the best attended ones in Southeast Kansas.

Currently, the chamber includes about 380 members, who are able to become booster level members according to their level of financial support. Other businesses and individuals interested in becoming involved are encouraged to do so.

“You do not necessarily have to be on the board to be involved,” Madison said, saying chamber events are open to individuals and they welcome involvement and ideas for the community.

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