Isanti Chamber focuses on a positive future

The Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to moving on from the past few months, and focusing on a positive, exciting future.

During an informational meeting Feb. 24 at Isanti City Hall, the Chamber Board of Directors addressed past rumors and issues that have been swirling among the community the past few months.

President Dustin Schroeder outlined a timetable of events beginning in April 2010, which was the beginning of the new fiscal year for the Chamber.

In April, the Chamber had 169 members, and by July, that number had dropped to 130. Currently, there are 116 members of the Chamber.

As far as Chamber fundraising efforts, the Spring Fling, golf tournament, and holiday social were successful with net profits of $9,500. Schroeder mentioned the Chamber had a few other smaller, profitable events throughout the year.

However, the Chamber’s largest event of the year, Isanti Jubilee Days, lost around $2,000.

In October, the board was told it only had three to four months left of operating expenses.

In December, the Chamber made the decision to lay off its director. At the time, the Chamber’s accounts receivable were over $9,000 in bad debts (uncollectible).

“We’ve had very little luck collecting the $9,000 and have been told to not expect to collect at least $4,500 of the $9,000,” Schroeder said.

Since December, the Chamber has been run strictly by volunteers, who have been running all of its day-to-day operations. The Chamber has also been able to rent out the second office in the Chamber building to eliminate cost. Schroeder said the only costs the Chamber has incurred are costs associated with operations such as phone, Internet, utilities, supplies, etc.

Schroeder said since February the Chamber has worked hard to replenish finances and pay off debts; has continued to hold special events, meetings and activities; and recently held a successful Bridal Fair and Business Expo.

“We are recovering, but it’s going to take some time,” Schroeder said. “We’ve been out talking and meeting with several businesses. Our purpose is to find out how to help businesses.

“We are struggling as a Chamber—it’s not a secret. We are short on cash right now, but we’re making good efforts to move forward,” Schroeder continued.

Another goal of the Chamber is improved communication.

“We are working on communication issues—both ways,” Schroeder said. “We are working on what we are putting out there, and what’s coming back to us. All of the board members are chipping in more and being more active. All of us on the board have made a commitment to be more involved with the Chamber.”

Schroeder said in the past, the board relied too much on its director, and didn’t stay as connected as it should have regarding financial decisions. He also said the board wasn’t aware of its unpaid bills and bad debts.

“We think by being more involved, we will nip a lot of this in the bud so past mistakes don’t happen again,” Schroeder said.  “We are working on rebuilding our reputation in the community. We have nothing to hide—all of our records are public.”

Schroeder said looking ahead, the Chamber is shifting its focus back to its members’ needs, and welcomes new ideas to improve its members’ business.

“Fiscal year to date, we did lose money, but the Chamber will survive this,” Schroeder said. “Some of the mistakes we made were big mistakes, but we’ve become committed to being a better board.”

County Commissioner Alan Duff asked the board about discussions regarding combining chambers.

“I’m excited to hear about the positive steps you are taking,” Duff said. “As a county commissioner, I talk to a variety of chambers, and was wondering if you’ve had any discussions about borders or boundaries of the chamber?”

Schroeder said the idea has come about, but there hasn’t been any official discussion. President-Elect Tracy Neifert said every couple of years the idea is brought up, but it hasn’t ever moved forward.

Isanti City Council Member Sue Larson asked about the donations given by businesses to specifically support the Isanti Family Farmer’s Market, that had its first season last year.

Schroeder said all the funds have been used up, but in the future it will look at having specific accounts for each different activity where donations are given to that specific activity.

Schroeder said the Chamber is working with the Isanti Family Farmer’s Market committee to discuss options, and hopefully it will be open for another season.

He said the Chamber is paying off past-due bills, and are now discussing expenditures at each board meeting with the exception of routine bills.

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer suggested the board be given a monthly expense report so it can better track expenses, and noted the Farmer’s Market did make money last year.

John Bettendorf advised the Chamber on having an annual report, and also placed confidence in the Board.

“I have faith in each and everyone of you up there that there is no wrong-doing with anything that has happened, or with the finances,” Bettendorf said. “I think the Chamber is a great organization. I appreciate the fact the board has sat here and expressed what has been going on the past three to four months. I think it’s time to move forward. Financially the Chamber has hit some pretty big snags, and I’ve even run into my own snag with respect to my business. But, I have faith in the Chamber that it will move on. Let’s get back to business and help get our businesses back together.”

The next big fundraising event for the Isanti Chamber is its Spring Fling, scheduled for Saturday, April 16, at Spectacular Events Banquet Center in Isanti. Tickets are $35 in advance, and $40 at the door. Anyone in the community is welcome to attend; you do not need to be a Chamber member to attend the Spring Fling.

Currently, the Chamber office is staffed by volunteers and Board members on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call 763-444-8515, email [email protected] or visit