McLennan chamber feeling the pinch

This week’s regular monthly meeting of the McLennan Chamber of Commerce could be monumental in more ways than one.
The Feb. 12 meeting, which was initiated to mark the birth of a new chamber executive, might very well be remembered from here on is as the day a community-based organization was put out of its misery and laid to rest.
Will the chamber fold?
That may be one of the difficult decisions facing representatives of the business community in the coming weeks if nothing is done soon to re-ignite a flickering chamber of commerce flame.
“We certainly don’t want to see anything even close to that happen,” said Sandy Thrall, secretary of the McLennan Chamber of Commerce, who describes the current downhill slide of the local chamber as both concerning and frustrating.
She attributes the skid to a serious lack of interest – a situation which continues to eat away at the foundation of the local organization like a cancer.
She says its a trend which has been reoccurring over and over again like a broken record for the past two years which she has been involved in the chamber operations.
Other residents, like former McLennan Chamber of Commerce Secretary Dale Fish, suggest the problem dates back way beyond that.
“It’s been an ongoing problem for at least four or five years,” she said, adding that it was like pulling teeth trying to generate enough interest for regular meetings.
Fish chalks up the waning interest levels to what she calls a “small town mentality” – a mindset which she believes has to change.
She just doesn’t have the solution to make the happen at this point.
“I don’t know what the answer is but this town has a terrible history for shooting itself in the foot… and it’s happening all over again,” she said.
Chamber of Commerce President Connie McCaig went on record last week by saying she remains hopeful that a feasible solution can be reached to re-charge interest levels within the municipal organization.
The question that remains, however, is whether or not the rest of the business community is on the same page.
“For one reason or another the interest just hasn’t been there. We need to find a way to reverse that trend by making it more appealing and attractivie for our members,” McCaig said.
Just how that will be achieved is still uncertain.
McCaig believes the first step is to get the business community together under one roof to chew the proverbial fat and address the issues currently sending shockwaves through the chamber.
“McLennan is such a lovely little town and I just think it would be dreadful to see the chamber die,” said the first-year president who recently announced she was stepping down as president.
She says her decision to call it quits wasn’t based on animosity or resentment. It was simply time for her to step aside and let someone else assume control of the reins.
But that doesn’t mean she’s abandoning her responsibility as a well-respected member of the chamber’s business community. In fact, it’s the exact opposite for McCaig, who has had her feet firmly planted on chamber soil for the past four years and confirms she isn’t bailing out.
“I may be stepping down as president but I’m not turning my back on the business community and saying that’s it. I’m proud to be a part of the chamber and I do want to see it continue,” she said.
Just who that could be known already, says Thrall, adding the purpose of the Feb. 12 meeting was to elect and swear in a new executive.
The Tuesday meeting marks the second attempt by the chamber in the past three months to have an election of officers. The first attempt was made last November when only a handful of members put in the effort to make an appearance.
“We sent out approximately 35 letters to invite members to our Annual General Meeting last November and five or six people showed up. I believe it’s finally got to the point where people really don’t want to be bothered by it (chamber responsibilities),” Thrall explained.
It’s a concern that isn’t exactly new to the current executive, which has been unsuccessful in its bid to get members back together at the table.
“It always seems as though we have the same five or six people at our meetings,” she said, adding they need seven members to have an official quorum. “Sometimes you just feel like you’re getting nowhere.”
Fish, meanwhile, says that’s exactly where the chamber is headed if the business community doesn’t stand up and do something to save the organization from following the beaten path of the dinosaur.
“I can see the day coming where people finally reach the point and say it’s time to shut it down. It happened in High Prairie and if we’re not careful it will happen here, too,” she predicted.
And that harsh news could become a reality as early as today believe it or not.