In March 2013, the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce won the 2013 Chamber of Commerce of the Year award at the annual Indiana Chamber Executives Association luncheon, and Rex Richards, President of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, says it is due to the dedication of their staff. “I am honored to work with such a talented staff. We have seven people who are really good at what they do and this award is a tribute to them and to the long-time investors and board at the chamber,” said Richards.
The award, which the chamber also won in 2005, was awarded for a number of reasons, including the chamber's Community Improvement Awards and the business appreciation luncheon, their strong financial performance, their high membership reinvestment rates and their strong advocacy on local, state and national issues. The chamber also received top “excellence” honors for its quarterly Valparaiso Magazine, the annual membership directory and community resource guide, the annual U-Guide University student resource book and its website. Its annual report received honorable mention. Richards also received recognition as an accredited executive and Susan Antoszewski, marketing and communication specialist/publications editor, and Kurt Gillins, chamber program director, received designation as certified professionals.
“The hard work and dedication of the professionals at the chamber is apparent through the works submitted for review by the judging panel,” said Indiana Chamber Executives Association President Shelli Williams. “The Valpo Chamber was up against some very well-respected competition, so to take top honors like this really says a lot,” she said.
Richards says the submission process included materials on the chamber’s various programs and offerings for membership. “It’s across the board on how your organization is structured. They had three or four independent judges from outside the state of Indiana and they come up with the winner and it’s always nice when you have outsiders who approve and it gives credibility to the award. It gives our members credibility that they have this kind of support. We’ve been a very successful chamber in serving our members. Our staff works so hard to help our members, so this award is really an honor for our members and the board of the chamber. The board has demanded results from the chamber staff and we feel very good about that recognition,” Richards says.
The chamber has in excess of 700 members, says Richards, and their membership retention rate is about 90 percent which is “way above industry standards.” Richards says it is also their involvement in regional, state, and national issues that allow them to be successful. “We try to be the voice of business for the greater Valparaiso area. We meet with legislators at the federal, state, and local level and we do business development, encouraging new firms to move to the Valparaiso area. We’re involved in broader issues,” he says.