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Now in its new home, Perham Area Chamber looking long-term

With new headquarters, the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce has set in motion plans for the future--while looking back on the past year.

"We embarked on a revival of the Chamber, with a focus on marketing and promotion," said Chamber President Nick Theroux. "It needed to be run more like a business."

Playing a significant role in the "new and improved" Chamber is Dan Schroeder, executive director since March of 2007.

"We cut out the fat in the budget the first year," said Schroeder. "We cut into the meat the second year."

This year, the Chamber has a budget of about $180,000, with about $68,000 of the revenue generated through Chamber membership dues.

A substantial increase in dues was implemented last year and, surprisingly, there was little or no resistance to the increase. In fact, membership is now at 220--when it had fallen to as low as 150.

"We needed to cover our operating costs," said Schroeder, of the need for a rate increase. "Then we could concentrate on our fundraising to promote Perham."

On a prepared list of accomplishments over last year, financial and accounting changes are at the top.

Other improvements cited:

• Of course, the sale of the old Chamber building and the move into the newly remodeled Chamber headquarters and city meeting chambers.

• Major improvements to the website.

• Improved communications through email.

• A new fundraising raffle.

• The continuation of regularly scheduled Power Hour meetings.

• Resort visits and update calling on a twice-monthly basis.

• A formalized contract for parties to rent the "Perham Express" parade locomotive.

• Continued growth of the trade show, golf scramble, and Perham book.

• Turtle Fest moved to a Friday-Saturday line-up, with a Friday evening parade, rather than Sunday.

• Creation of a DVD promoting Perham.

• Development of Chamber data base.

• Reformatting of the retail committee as the "Events Committee," with chairman Mark Lenius.

• The Chamber supports community organizations, such as a recent contribution to the Perham Police Reserves.

One of Schroeder's personal goals is to create and promote a few larger-scale special events. This might be a collaborative venture to host a fishing contest with the newly formed Perham Area Sportsman's Club.

One larger event already underway for next summer is the return of a regional softball tournament, which will be hosted during Turtle Fest.