This year was a busy time for the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce, filled with new events, programs, activities and accomplishments. Below is a brief summary of how we served Isle of Wight businesses and residents this past year.
- The chamber launched two large-scale events designed to stimulate local business and showcase the county’s quality of life, shopping and dining experiences, and natural beauty. The inaugural Mardi Gras Run4Beads in February attracted more than 400 runners from across Hampton Roads for a run through Windsor Castle Park and into downtown Smithfield for music, food and awards. The Smithfield Century Bike Tour drew about 250 cyclists to enjoy the scenic roads of Isle of Wight and a post-ride celebration at Windsor Castle Park. Both events are slated to return in 2016.
- We presented our first three $1,000 scholarships to outstanding high school seniors, through our philanthropic arm, the Isle of Wight Community Foundation. One recipient was selected from each of the three high schools in the county: Smithfield High, Windsor High, and Isle of Wight Academy. The scholarships were funded by the proceeds of the food tasting event, Flavors of Isle of Wight.
Shown: Renee Rountree, right, of the Isle of Wight Community Foundation presented the $1,000 scholarship for Isle of Wight Academy senior Carson Saunders.
- A new membership structure lets members choose their investment level and benefits. The chamber’s new tiered membership program offers a variety of membership levels with increasing benefit packages at higher levels. Instead of being assigned a level based on the number of employees, businesses can select their own package based on their budget and the benefits they desire.
- The chamber also installed a new member management system, integrated with its website (www.theisle.org), that will streamline member communication and billing, better secure member information, and allow online registration for events and payments. The system also helps the chamber maintain a comprehensive public calendar of community events on its website.
- The Student Leadership Institute Class of 2015 completed its nine-month program in June with a graduation ceremony. Sixteen high school juniors completed the program, and collaborated on projects that included initiatives to combat bullying. The Class of 2016 is now underway with students from Smithfield High, Windsor High, Isle of Wight Academy, and Nansemond Suffolk Academy.
- Leadership Isle of Wight graduated its Class of 2015 in October. Every two years, individuals come together and spend the ensuing ten months learning about the local economy. These individuals begin the year as strangers and end having formed a life-long association of friends and colleagues. Most importantly, these individuals leave Leadership Isle of Wight with a commitment to assume responsibility in this community and beyond.
Shown Above: The Student Leadership Institute and Leadership Isle of Wight classes were greeted at the Executive Mansion in Richmond by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
- The chamber now offers SkillsOnline career training courses. A partnership with Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association, a service of WHRO, SkillsOnline offers self-paced and instructor-led courses. SkillsOnline features convenient class times, low-cost tuition and thousands of courses in industries that are actively hiring.
- A revamped State of the County Breakfast in June provided members with a view inside county and town governments. For the first time, the event was coordinated with county staff and included video presentations and talks by the mayors of Smithfield and Windsor as well as the school board chairman. Smithfield Foods CEO C. Larry Pope, shown left, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the county, saying “It’s the same old Smithfield Foods…but better.”
- The chamber continued its series of local meetings for businesses in Carrollton, Windsor and on South Church Street in Smithfield. These Business Council meetings are designed for business people in these areas to discuss the issues and concerns of particular interest to them, and how the chamber of commerce can help address those matters.
- In addition to raising funds for scholarships (see above), the Isle of Wight Community Foundation also helped the Friends of Wayne Beale collect donations to, among other things, provide a customized vehicle for the Smithfield resident, who suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The successful fund drive allowed the group to purchase a vehicle which, on Beale’s passing, was made available to another community member in need.
- The chamber presented informational workshops designed to help local businesses stay competitive and prevent loss from fraud. The workshops addressed best practices for social media, cybersecurity and crime prevention, and getting businesses included in search engines and mapping software.
Shown: Damian Smith of Farmers Bank leads a social media best practices workshop offered by the chamber of commerce. .
- To enhance Smithfield’s Christmas tourism events, the chamber presented vintage toy train displays at its downtown offices for two weekends. Privately owned Lionel toy trains from the 1920s up to the present were displayed in operation, and children were allowed to operate the controls. Admission was free and open to the public. Hot beverages were served, courtesy of Keurig Green Mountain.
- The chamber also presented its annual pre- and post-legislative session breakfast forums, Chamber Expo in March; monthly Business After Hours receptions; ribbon cutting ceremonies for many new businesses, and its Annual Meeting and Awards Reception in September.
Many thanks to our chamber members for making all these accomplishments possible. Without the support of members, the chamber could not continue to serve the businesses and residents of Isle of Wight County.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016,
Andrew Cripps, IOW
Andrew Cripps, IOW