With a new executive director at its helm, the is on a mission to draw interest back into the local community.
Abby Erickson, who was appointed executive director after the resignation of chamber President Andrew Kudwa and Executive Director Mary Ann Falzon at the end of last year, said she is determined to repair the chamber's image among both local residents and outside visitors. The chamber was the subject of media criticism in 2010 after a failed social media campaign to promote downtown businesses.
"It isn't so much that we are changing the chamber's image, just re-establishing its former image," Erickson said. "We need to market what we have in Dexter and draw people in with what we already have. If you do the right things to promote your business, the other things will follow."
Erickson said cross promotion with local businesses is a great way to promote the community and can create lasting relationships among business owners. Other ideas include partnering with local businesses to come up with events throughout the year, such as an ice festival, to draw outlying residents to the community.
Erickson said she is working on a new chamber Web site that will focus on local events and activities in both downtown Dexter as well as the village's many parks, something she hopes will be ready by summer.
"We want people to come and spend time here," she said. "To do that, businesses need to give folks a reason to stick around town when they drop their child off at karate. If I'm in your store, I'm going to buy something."
The Minnesota native said she brings a different perspective to the chamber because her experience of living and working in other small towns gives her a clearer outlook on marketing ideas that have worked. Erickson is working closely with chamber board President Paula Palmer Burns, a lifetime resident of Dexter, to discover ways the chamber can help local business owners promote their shops.
Palmer Burns and Erickson said they are open to suggestions from business owners.
"People need to concentrate more on the positive," Palmer Burns said. "There has never been a time that every storefront was filled. I'm a third-generation Dexter resident, and I believe that the Downtown Development Authority has done a good job of maintaining the character of this village. It still feels like home to me."
For more information on chamber membership, visit www.dexterchamber.org. Membership costs in the chamber vary by the number of individuals in an organization. Membership includes monthly business breakfasts, newsletters, a listing in the chamber's membership directory, discounted advertising, spots on the Lucy Ann Lance Business Insider radio show and unlimited access to the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The chamber holds an informational community meeting at 8 a.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at the Dexter Community Schools Administration Building, 7714 Ann Arbor St. The chamber's 2011 annual membership dinner is scheduled for March 10 at the Portage Yacht Club, 8930 Dexter-Pinckney Rd. in Pinckney. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 734-426-0887.