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2020 Reflections and Visions Forward

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December 30, 2020

 

Happy Holidays Mercer Island Community Partners,

 

As we close out the tremendously difficult year, we look forward to a new year with hope and confidence for our local businesses. We are proud to represent them and we will continue to work hard to provide them information and access to resources they need.

This is the time of the year the Chamber typically awards the Business of the Year on Mercer Island. In 2020 we are celebrating all local businesses, their owners/operators and their employees who have persevered during these challenging times. The Chamber will also be honoring those beloved businesses forced to close due to the pandemic, including Caruccio’s, BarreRev, Definitive Dance, 5-Elements Pilates and Menchies. Hopefully some, if not all, of these businesses will be back.

Economic development on Mercer Island has been elevated to a top priority by the City Council in 2021/2022 and for the first time the Council has budgeted a staff position to help us achieve that aim. The first step in that process will be public engagement to clarify the goals for business development in our community. In the best of all worlds, business development is not a competition but a collaboration that flourishes with a “rising tide floats all boats” mentality. Vibrant commercial areas on the north and south ends of Mercer Island depend on residents using services and buying goods at local shops whenever possible and on the mutual support of owners, employees, landlords, and community organizations, as well as city policies that support business.

The City Council recently earmarked $14,400 to restore Chamber funding for business development services. These funds were lost in the budget cuts of 2019 but historically, as far back as 2001, the City contracted with the Chamber for services in this amount. To receive the earmarked funds, a contract with clear deliverables will be negotiated between the City and the Chamber.

Why should the city contract with the Chamber for business development services? The Chamber is a non-profit organization of businesses, nonprofits and professionals that join to help make connections to each other and the greater community on and off Island, whose mission is “to support and foster the growth, development and advancement of the businesses of Mercer Island while promoting Mercer Island as a special place to do business, live, work and play.” Members pay dues, a volunteer board directs an executive director (.5 FTE) and a physical office is maintained in the town center to greet visitors and distribute information to businesses on the Island and those that want to come here. The Chamber invests all its revenue back into the community through programs, events and support services. For example, connecting businesses to the MIYFS breakfast fundraiser, hosting Art UnCorked, getting little feet on the streets for Halloween Trick or Treat, and promoting shopping locally with the Shop.Eat.Enjoy. campaign. The Chamber produces a local map and business directory. The Chamber hosts public luncheons, to inform residents and businesses of local and regional issues that impact our community. This year the Chamber was a valued partner on the recent Covid-19 WeLoveMI and MInext campaigns. In partnership with the MI Community Fund, over $250K was raised for Mercer Island Businesses and nonprofits. The Chamber served as a conduit for pandemic related information and supported businesses with PPP and grants and distributed PPE, as well as helped several businesses with one-on-one personalized assistance in the grant application process.

All of these programs contribute to making Mercer Island a more vibrant community, a community where we support one another, our children and our businesses, because we care and because businesses that thrive help make Mercer Island a special place to live, work and play.

 

Wishing you a holiday season filled with joy

and a healthy and prosperous start to 2021,

 

Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

and

Executive Director, Laurie Givan

 

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