Auburn chamber talks strategy for 2012

Smart phone app coming to fruition
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A new major community event or program and a smart phone app are among the plans for 2012 the Auburn Chamber of Commerce board discussed at its recent Strategic Planning Conference. “Right now it is really challenging in this current economy and, like all businesses, the chamber is aware it needs to utilize its resources effectively,” CEO Bruce Cosgrove said this week. “So we’re looking at programs that will help small businesses and what can the chamber do to help.” Specifics of the major program or event will be decided during the next couple of months. It’s an idea the chamber has been considering for a while. “We’re looking over a whole laundry list of things that would be helpful to businesses in the community,” Cosgrove said. “We’ll select one major effort — if it is a business program, community event or social event that provides an opportunity for businesses to promote themselves.” There’s no timeframe for whatever the effort may be. However, Cosgrove did confirm that the Auburn Wednesday Night Live program, held for the past two years in Downtown Auburn, won’t be repeated next year. “It was a good event but didn’t attract the vendors we were hoping for,” Cosgrove said. “We had some fairly good participation but it just didn’t generate the foot traffic to justify the investment we were making for (it).” Getting bigger and better Another decision at the conference was that the State of the Community Dinner, which has been very successful — will get an even bigger chamber investment in time and energy, he said. “We’re committed to enhancing that event and several others we do and making them even grander and more special,” he said. “We’re working on some concepts for the State of the Community. We’re working on the Fourth of July and putting some history into it and more music. We’re looking at the possibility of theatrical productions at the fairgrounds where you have actors who, through their entertaining, bring out the significance of the Fourth of July.” The chamber wants to broaden the scope of the Festival of Lights Parade as well, and the board is considering a lot of ideas. “We started a little this year with the mixer to kick off earlier, and we’re adding a much larger float and encouraging more (of the chamber members) to be involved,” Cosgrove said. “We’re looking at ways to have the (parade) either be at the conclusion of a full week of festival activities that draw more attention to shopping local and thinking Auburn first. It either kicks off Festival of Lights week or concludes a full week or 10 days of activities.” Smart phone app in the works The smart phone app has been on the drawing board for a while and the board made the final commitment during the conference to move forward on it. Once activated, it will be available to all Auburn businesses, whether or not they are chamber members, but there will be a small charge to be included. It will be limited to Auburn and will be free to download. “When you go to the app, it provides a calendar of events, some historical information on the community and an economic development point for the city of Auburn,” Cosgrove said. “For the shopper and consumer, if you are looking for a restaurant (for example), all of the participating restaurants will be there. You can very quickly and easily make a reservation, look at the menu, or contact (the business) by e-mail or Twitter. You can text (the business) if it is set up for that and you can visit the website (of the business). It also maps. You don’t have to come back out and go into Mapquest. There’s an icon for directions that’s on the app for that restaurant.” In the coming year, there will also be more focus on the chamber’s marketing committee, which markets the chamber as well as the local business community. “We spent a considerable amount of time talking about branding and conceptual ideas that can be put into place that local business people can grab onto and use as they promote their businesses,” he said. Cosgrove to retire Conference participants also began discussions to put in place a smooth transition when Cosgrove retires in two years. During his nearly three decades in the job, he has had a pivotal role in the creation of most, if not all, of the chamber’s current events and programs. For incoming president Richard Hall of BottomLine Lawyers, planning for that transition is one of the most important tasks for the coming year. “There are three things,” he said. “One is helping our community understand how much the chamber has helped the community grow up over the last 100 years. We had a list four pages long dealing with infrastructure, government, business, culture and tourism, all of which the chamber has significantly contributed to over a number of years. We’re trying to communicate about that with the general public as well as chamber members. “(Another issue) is that the leadership of the last 28 years will change in a couple of years. Bruce will retire in a couple of years and we’re studying the transition for that change. We’re also looking at how we can be the facilitator for helping the various business groups like the (local business associations) reach their objectives.” Reach Gloria Young at ---------------------------- Major upcoming events sponsored by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce State of the Community Dinner — held in April, it honors standouts in education, arts, agriculture, healthcare, recreation, business, city and county and the recipient of the Vernon Gould McCann award. Auburn Family Fourth — A day of family fun concluding with fireworks at the Gold Country Fairgrounds Festival of Lights Parade — Kick off to the Christmas season the first weekend in December with 100-plus floats rolling through Lincoln Way and High Street.