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Celebrating Growth and Community

Reflecting on a year of growth and community milestones, as we approach the end of our fiscal year at the Chamber, is a perfect time to celebrate our journey together. This year has truly marked a return to normalcy for our businesses and events, with inspiring developments across our diverse divisions. 

Our divisions have seen membership growth with our Women’s Network reaching pre-COVID event numbers.  

ARPA Funding

One key to the economic growth we are seeing in our workforce division is through city and county ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding. This funding is being used with three core programs: World of Works, Show Me Careers, and Boomerang.  

World of Works is a program that helps introduce students from middle school through college with exposure of diverse career paths. This year as part of our Showcase COMO with more tha 100 businesses represented, we held an adjacent job fair that introduced over 500 students and job seekers to the opportunities available in Columbia.  

Show Me Careers was established to bring our area teachers into advanced manufacturing, technology, health care and other targeted job sites where employers have identified worker shortages and a need to develop a career pipeline for area youth. The initiative assists educators in producing lesson plans that expose youth to career opportunities in the Columbia area. 

Our Boomerang program targets young adults and people of working age that have a connection to Columbia. The goal is to educate individuals about career opportunities, pathways to prosperity, and quality of life which makes Columbia a great place to live, learn, work, and play. The program would work with our institutions of higher education, K-12 education institutions, and other community partners to build a target audience. 

With the ARPA funding of $1.1 million, these programs will continue to grow and help bring workers back to Columbia. 

In April we announced our rebrand. Starting in January we assembled a phenomenal task force alongside COMO Marketing to take our brand to the next level. We wanted to first get away from fruit. If you have seen our old logo, you know it resembled orange slices and, in the past, we followed the trend to have an apple in our logo. We were done with fruit. Next and more importantly, we wanted to bring all of our divisions together. We wanted anyone to look at an EPIC logo and know that this division is a part of the chamber.

In a hyper-speed timeline, we were able to announce our new brand of six new logos, new fonts, color palettes, and four brand new websites.  

We have also had the privilege of honoring many amazing members and community members this past year. From our local small businesses with our five finalists — Ai Painting Plus, Betz Jewelers, Lumia Med Spa, The Cleanest LLC, and The COMO 411. Betz Jewelers was announced as Small Business of the Year to cap Small Business Week on May 9. 

Our Agriculture Community had the pleasure of awarding three local farmers: Kent Shannon, Friend of Youth; John Lorenzen Family, Agriculturalist of the Year; and Archer Stone, Don Day Agribusiness and Bioscience Scholarship for their outstanding work in Boone County. 

Women’s Network gave the ATHENA Leadership Award which recognizes accomplished individuals who actively support women in attaining professional excellence and leadership skills. This award highlights what recipients have accomplished in addition to ways they have paved the path for future successes.  ATHENA Leadership Award inspires others to achieve excellence by honoring exceptional leaders. This year’s winner was Ann Merrifield. Our Athena Young Professionals finalists were Jason Gruender, Kasey Hammock, and Justina Dial, with the award going to Kasey Hammock.  

These recognitions celebrate excellence and dedication within our community, inspiring future achievements. 

Leadership remains a cornerstone of our organization. In September 2023, we visited Madison, Wisconsin, with local leaders to explore innovative solutions to community challenges, from addressing homelessness to enhancing sports tourism. Additionally, our Leadership Columbia program continues to empower local leaders through immersive community engagement. 

All these accomplishments will be showcased at our upcoming Annual Celebration on June 13. Join us in celebrating a year of growth and community impact — a truly unforgettable event. 

This year has demonstrated our collective resilience and determination. Let’s celebrate our achievements and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead for Columbia.

Matt McCormick

Matt McCormick is the president and CEO of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

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