Rescheduling a public event that involves a rented venue, a caterer, a liquor license and a long list of award recipients is no small task. That's a lot of moving parts to try and realign. In the darkness of my home, which had no electricity from 3 am to 9 am, I fretted last Thursday morning about how the Chamber and GIC Business After Hours & Awards event might all come together again (or
simply fall apart).
Amazingly, just like the privacy fence around my yard, all of the pieces fit
back together (with only minor flaws) and the event was a go once again. Please, come celebrate with us tonight!
When all of the rescheduling details were worked out, I spent about two minutes being proud of myself for not having a nervous breakdown during the realignment process. Then I opened Facebook to share the new details for the Business After Hours and I was instantly mad at myself.
Rescheduling this celebration had become such a big deal to me that I was blind to what was happening on both ends of my state. In the Panhandle — where I grew up — folks were buried under FEET of snow. The losses, especially to the cattle industry, are enormous. In eastern Nebraska, three people lost their lives due to FEET of gushing water that has caused destruction beyond BILLIONS of dollars.
It seems a little unreal here in Gothenburg where a few washed out gravel roads have been an inconvenience. But to no surprise, our generous residents have already begun delivering help to take care of our neighbors. There have been loads of hay, water, food and other personal items already delivered from here. More loads are being collected.
The Governor has declared Friday, March 22, as #NebraskaStrong Day, urging those who can donate financially to give via a phone call to 844-278-8555. Giving online is also available through an American Red Cross relief site at www.RedCross.org/donate.
There's not a quick fix. No doubt, though, neighbors will continue helping neighbors until everyone is back on their feet, because we are ... #NebraskaStrong.
If you want a little crazy weather, ask the Gothenburg Community Development Office to plan the annual awards presentation event. At least that's been the case the past two years, and it proved true again in 2019. We've postponed our Business After Hours & Awards until Thursday, March 21, at the same time and same place.
There are still folks out there confused by the Gothenburg Community Development Office, Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and Gothenburg Improvement Company. Are they all the same thing? How are they different? Why are there three? Let me explain.
The Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization designed to promote the businesses in town and growth of our community. We also work to make connections with new residents, plan events such as Harvest Festival, advertise our attractions to tourists and take a seat at the table whenever discussions warrant. It's a nonprofit organization run by 12 board of directors. That's just a snippet. It would take far too many characters to explain it all.
Gothenburg Improvement Company is an organization of stockholders who volunteer their time toward economic development. These range from recruiting new businesses and working toward business retention to leading efforts such as passing a school bond issue, developing an economic development sales tax plan and pushing the fundraising for a new YMCA across the finish line. Right now, GIC is heavily involved in new housing development and early childhood learning, on top of marketing the former Baldwin Filters building to find a new community partner. It is run by a board of directors made up of 16 community leaders and the tasks they take on vary as much as the talents each brings to the board.
And simply put, the Community Development Office is the umbrella. The Community Development Office manages the day-to-day operations of both the Chamber and GIC under one roof.
So when the Community Development Office has its annual awards event — this year in a Business After Hours format — both the Chamber and GIC come together to honor a few folks that make Gothenburg the fabulous community that it is. All of this year's award recipients exemplify "The Gothenburg Way." A few kind words and a pretty plaque seem small when compared to what these folks have done for the community.
The event is free and open to the public. No tickets and no reservations required. We'll have some hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and lots to fun. I hope you'll join us to recognize what's great about Gothenburg.
We're all getting a little bit grumpy. We've had enough of messy hair from heavy stocking caps and squished toes from always wearing two pairs of socks. We're over the slippery dance, scraping windows and burning cheeks from the icy wind. This winter thing has gone on far long enough.
Just the other day, a woman came into my office with a bit of a strange look on her face. As she reached to tug her gloves tighter on her hands, she said perhaps the cold is getting to her brain. When she stepped out of her car, she found herself listening for the Christmas music that the city plays downtown during the holidays. Oh honey, this is much colder than it ever got at Christmas time.
And it doesn't look like Mother Nature is in any hurry to crank up the thermostat. The extended forecast keeps us below freezing through at least the middle of March. Doesn't she know spring arrives on March 20? That means the temperature should be at least above 32 degrees, right? The ever-popular Farmer's Almanac predicts spring will take its sweet time coming and when it does finally arrive, temperatures are likely to be cooler than normal across much of the U.S.
Well I think a couple of gals at the bank had a great idea to warm things up. What if we all opened our doors and let a little heat out? All at once — let's just say at noon on Friday — we open the front door of our home or business for one whole minute and we'll see if we gain a degree or two.
Meanwhile, bundle up.
Being a business owner or manager
in small-town Nebraska isn't easy.
Anyone who says it is, likely just wants
to convince themselves.
So what keeps you up at night? I don't
mean the chili dog you ate for lunch, the
neighbor's barking dog or the dripping faucet left on just a little to keep pipes from freezing in this never-ending winter. I mean, what occupies your business mind before you fall asleep?
With an unemployment rate below 3%, finding and keeping good workers has to be one answer. Warm bodies is one thing. Folks who fit into the team and are trustworthy is another. If you're hiring, let me know. You'd be amazed at the number of people who call my office asking about available jobs. While the Chamber is not a job service, I like to be helpful wherever I can. I can't help if I don't know what's out there. The Chamber website also has a classified ads section where members can post jobs for free. If you need help with that, let me know.
The need to recruit employees can be related to an overwhelming workload for owners and managers who pick up extra duties just to keep the boat afloat. Trying to juggle customer service while also handling the bookkeeping, marketing and cleaning the toilets can quickly lead to burnout. I'm not saying I will come clean your toilets, but the Chamber may have some ways to help ... or at least some ideas to share.
Then there's that little aspect of work-life balance. You want the business to be successful. You NEED the business to be successful so you do what it takes. And it probably feels like you're always trying to come up with the next best thing to make a bigger profit. It doesn't take long before you find yourself feeling drained and detached. It may seem like "just one more thing to do," but getting involved in a Chamber committee or attending an event might be just what you need to refuel. Networking with other business men and women who feel your pain could possibly bring about a magic connection and one or more solutions.
So, what keeps you awake at night? If you're willing to share those thoughts, your Chamber is willing to work toward a solution.
I would be lying if I said I haven't fretted ... A LOT ... since the announcement that Gothenburg's Shopko Hometown store will be closing in May. It's a blow to our community to lose a retail business that can't be easily replaced, and it comes on the heels of the Baldwin plant closure. It feels like another sucker punch to the gut.
Our Shopko Hometown began as a Pamida store, built from scratch in 2009. At the time, it was one of the Omaha-based company’s 193 stores in 17 states. In 2012, the Pamida company merged with Shopko Stores Inc., and our Pamida transitioned to Shopko Hometown, re-opening under the new brand just before Christmas of that year.
In the past six years, we've become accustomed to having a large retail outlet right here for a last-minute birthday gift, supplies for a class project or a replacement for the coffee pot that brewed its last java. We've also likely made friends with the employees — the customer service rep who helped us find the baby Tylenol, the shelf stocker who loaded the bookcase into our car and the cashier who reminded us about our coupons.
That's all about to change. And it's scary. But don't lose hope.
Community leaders and city officials are already exploring options. We were proactive with the Baldwin building, putting measures in place quickly to be able to market the facility ourselves and attract the "right fit." No doubt the same dedication will hold true for Shopko.
In the meantime, be a little extra kind to the folks working at Shopko through May 5. They were not the decision makers in the process to close this store. And they're facing the last months of a job on top of listening to customers lament about the closing.
Show some love to the other retailers in town too. We want to keep our charming shops and our personal service, but you have to shop local to keep local. It might require more energy than a keyboard click followed by a package delivery, but the customer service and relationships you get in return will be well worth it.
The phone rings in the Chamber office ... a lot. I guess that's what happens when you're considered the hub of community information. After just a couple of years here, I've fielded enough calls prefaced by "this might be a strange question" to know there are few callers who can still surprise me.
There was a call once from a gentleman who asked me what Pizza Hut serves on its buffet. Another person wanted to know what time her leaves would be picked up by the city crews. Oh, and one lady needed to know where she could buy buttons. While I often wonder why these people simply don't use Google to find their answers or a more appropriate office to call, these kinds of questions remind me that folks trust the Chamber of Commerce to either know the answers or be able to find out.
Yesterday afternoon, I answered a call from a guy who was headed west on Interstate 80 and ran out of gas about a mile before he got to the Gothenburg exit. He was from Illinois and called the Chamber to find out if there are any service stations in town that would bring him a gallon of fuel. I shared with him the phone numbers for each of the gas stations in town and wished him luck.
A few minutes later, the same stranded motorist called back. He wanted me to know he hadn't found a station to come to his rescue, and then he asked the temperature in case he had to walk. Although it would have required me to locate a gas can and purchase fuel, I offered to make the delivery myself. He was frustrated with the situation, but was quick to decline. He said that went far beyond the expectations of a Chamber of Commerce.
I didn't hear from him again.
First off, does anyone in Gothenburg offer this service as part of their business? If so, I'd like to know in case this type of call ever happens again. Secondly, what would be your expectation of the Chamber of Commerce in this situation? I'm wondering if I should put an empty gas can in my storage room.
In a one-person office that receives lots of phone calls and a handful of visitors on a slow day, it can tend to be a challenge to concentrate on any one task. Add big windows overlooking a busy downtown intersection with a discount store next door and distractions are everywhere.
I'm working on a large project that requires a certain amount of focus. What do you do
when you really need to zone in on one task but there are all sorts of sparkly things tugging at your attention?
Bob Seger. That's what I do.
When stress is high, time is low and nerves are thin, Seger comes to my rescue. There's nothing like a little "Hollywood Nights,"
"We've Got Tonight" or "Against the Wind" to put me in a mood to get work done. So this afternoon, I had my own personal concert with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. The serenade started with the "Stranger in Town" album, moved on to "Night Moves" and we finished with "Like a Rock."
Three albums later, I had completed two different brochure designs for one of our Chamber partners, wrapped up my part of an RFI for a new business prospect and cleaned off my desk. I also provided a little "Old Time Rock and Roll" for those walking down Lake Avenue on this dreary afternoon.
(Photo Courtesy of Punch Enterprises)
’re a couple of weeks into the new year. How are those resolutions going? With the turn of the calendar come a multitude of plans for some sort of renaissance: lose weight, save money, volunteer more, learn a new skill. All are admirable goals, no matter how long the individual determination lasts.
The Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce is on the resolution bandwagon here, too. That’s how this “Corner View” blog came to be. It actually checks off two goals in one effort. Personally, I was a writer in my previous life and the left side of my brain has been missing that particular creative outlet a little. Professionally, I wanted to add something to the Chamber’s offerings that our partners, prospective members, residents, anyone could find useful and relatable.
This blog is intended to provide information, share ideas, celebrate large and small victories and hopefully even entertain a little. There really aren’t any set parameters … just a view of life through the windows of my office on the corner of 10th and Lake Avenue. I hope to post weekly, but it might turn into something more.
So come back here or follow the Chamber's Facebook page to keep up. Comment. Share. Send me suggestions. As with everything I do for the Chamber of Commerce, I'm here for you.