NEW HARTFORD — The New Hartford Chamber of Commerce spent 2018 looking to grow and rekindle its community involvement. It’s safe to say it has succeeded on both fronts.
“It’s no longer 'I didn’t know we had a chamber.' (It's changed) to 'I want to be a part of the New Hartford chamber,'” said chamber President Mark Turnbull.
Officially established in 1972 — though officials believe the organization might have been active earlier than that — the chamber eventually began to play less of a role over the years. It still gave a yearly scholarship, had ribbon-cuttings and helped with the Memorial Day parade, but it did not really do much more than that.
Then, in the spring of 2018, chamber officials decided they wanted to do more. This included growing its numbers and having more community involvement.
The chamber had 47 members in 2017. It had 150 members last year. Now, more than 200 businesses participate.
“We’ve seen a great increase in membership,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull listed the chamber becoming more visible — especially on social media — and hosting monthly business after-hour events as some of the main reasons why businesses have been signing up to join.
He further stated that the chamber’s membership is eclectic, with members ranging from big national box stores to people working out of their homes.
"Residents and business owners in New Hartford are proud of our community," said Scott Mathias, chamber executive vice president. "I think the reason for the growth in the chamber is excitement. Business owners are excited to be a part of an organization that helps connect them to the community."
The chamber hosted numerous events in the last year to increase its presence in the community. These events included a "shop local" event — held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving — and a summer scavenger hunt, where children were able to win prizes by going around the greater New Hartford community to find Waldo, the white-and-red-clad hider in a successful series of children’s books.
“They all helped,” Turnbull said.
The chamber also hosted an awards dinner — including a state-of-the-town speech by Town Supervisor Paul Miscione — and a farmers market that ran June through September at the New Hartford Shopping Center.
Turnbull said those events likely will return this year, but the chamber has not yet met in the new year to discuss its plans.
Mathias said the chamber is considering a bunch of new initiatives this year that still have to be worked out in various committees before going public.
Contact reporter Ed Harris at 315-792-5063 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_EHarris).