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The Scarlet & Black

New Year brings changes to Chamber of Commerce

Dan+Agnew+stepped+in+to+guide+the+Chamber+of+Commerce+after+%0AAngela+Harrington%E2%80%99s+resignation+in+December.+Photo+by+Sarah+Ruiz
Dan Agnew stepped in to guide the Chamber of Commerce after Angela Harrington’s resignation in December. Photo by Sarah Ruiz

When Grinnell community members gather together for hot chocolate during the Jingle Bell Holiday celebration, or are chatting in front of stalls of fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market—that is the work of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. More than 300 of Grinnell’s businesses pay dues to a task force organized to improve the local economy and generate acts of community-building.

“[We want to] bring more people to town, get more people in the doors [of businesses] and plan activities that make people want to live in Grinnell,” said Chamber Tourism Director Emily Counts.

The Chamber of Commerce is undergoing reorganization after former President Angela Harrington stepped down from her position this December. The Chamber will not be filling her position, but rather will be dispersing responsibilities between Chamber Director Rachel Kinnick and Counts.

“She’s put Rachel and I in a good position as far as being involved in all our projects already instead of having to start from scratch or trying to pick up the pieces,” Counts said. “We’re feeling comfortable about how that has gone.”

It has been a gradual process within the organization, beginning in early 2014 when Harrington moved down to half-time to do more work in business consultation within the town. While Harrington has stepped down as President, she will still be a strong figure of community development, focusing now on her business consultation company, as well as the plan to open a downtown hotel and events center.

“That’s been a Chamber initiative on the top of our priority list for several years, so we’re excited that she’s excited to dedicate more time to that project,” Counts said.

To help keep the work of the Chamber of Commerce successful and focused, former CEO of Grinnell Mutual Dan Agnew, a familiar face to most of Grinnell’s community, will be stepping in as new Chair of the board of directors.

Dan Agnew stepped in to guide the Chamber of Commerce after  Angela Harrington’s resignation in December. Photo by Sarah Ruiz
Dan Agnew stepped in to guide the Chamber of Commerce after Angela Harrington’s resignation in December. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

The board of directors is tasked with overseeing the Chamber’s ongoing work and ensuring that it aligns with the missions of the Chamber. Agnew will serve as a community leader for the board.

“He has a strong understanding of how an organization operates, so I think that will be a great strength going forward as he leads our board of directors,” Counts said.

The board, more specifically, approves the Chamber’s methods and the projects they carry out. It also works to identify new needs of the Grinnell community or ongoing Chamber work that is no longer needed. It is made up of small and large business owners, other community leaders and representatives of the College and nonprofit organizations.

“Our goal is … to make sure it’s a good mix of experiences and ideas and a variety of sectors from our membership so that decision-making body of people is a good representation of what our members’ needs and wants might be,” Counts explained.

The Chamber works with the Grinnell Connect young professionals networking community to support Grinnell’s young adults as they look at the beginnings of their adult lives and careers.

“[We] help them make connections and feel comfortable here so hopefully they stay here and don’t move somewhere else,” Counts said.

Other upcoming products of the Chamber’s work include the annual Awards Recognition Program on February 25—a networking event during which awards are given such as “Business of the Year Award” and “20 under 40” entrepreneurial and retail awards. The Grinnell High School homecoming parade, summer music events, the Grinnell Games and the July 4 parade and fireworks are all organized by the Chamber.

“Summer town events are designed to get people really enjoying the community and give them something to do without driving to a larger city. They’re usually centered in the downtown so people are comfortable here and hopefully shopping before or after, eating out, that sort of thing,” Counts explained. “Overall, we plan to continue doing pretty much all the things we’ve been doing as we’ve been doing them … continuing to make Grinnell a fun place to live, work and play!”

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