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Newton Chamber finding ways to grow

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 12:45 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 3:02 p.m. CST
Caption
(Matthew Shepard/Daily News)
Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darrel Sarmento addressed members at the Chamber's 115th annual dinner and business meeting Jan. 31.

The Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce continues to grow, and Executive Director Darrell Sarmento is excited about the progress the Chamber has made in the last year. 

“We had over 30 join last year,” Sarmento said. “Most chambers average between 80 to 90 percent retention. We average about 90 percent.”  

The chamber has always helped its members, and this year the Chamber will provide a service focusing on human resourcing.

“We want to have a more targeted networking seminars to address specific issues,” Sarmento said. “Such as our human resources networking group. It is where HR directors, or anybody out there with employees, can network and talk about issues.”

Such issues can be about hiring/firing employees, health insurance and housing.

Smaller businesses cannot afford to hire full-time HR directors, and, for many, that means the responsibility is on the owner/manager. The ability to hear from HR directors of multi-million-dollar corporations can be beneficial to the smaller members of the Chamber. 

“The goal is to allow this group (larger companies) to be a resource to the small business owners, who still have 10 employees, but don’t have an HR person on staff,” Sarmento said. “They deal with a lot of the same issues.”

A new board member may provide many Chamber members new knowledge of HR skills. HR Director of Trinity Structural Towers Christine Hopwood became a board member and Sarmento was excited to have her join.

“We are excited that Christine Hopwood, the HR Director of Trinity Structural Towers will be on our board of directors his year,” Sarmento said. “That (HR) will be one of her focuses.”

The chamber also plans on hosting several social media events. With the growing multimedia market, Sarmento considers keeping businesses up-to-date a high priority. Even if chamber members do not have a website, the chamber provides basic contact information to the general public on their website. 

“We will continue to host a social media lunch-and-learn every other month in the new year,” Sarmento said. “We are looking to provide the proper tools they need to better use social media to promote themselves. As far as marketing, we are hoping to have a marketing round table every other month so business leaders can come together and talk.”

Although the target audience for social media is different than what some business owners are used to, Sarmento understands that it is a key to bringing in new customers. Younger generations are using social media, and evolving with the needs of the consumer is what message the chamber hopes to address with its members.

One event that the Chamber hopes to continue is their car show.

“In the summer we had a downtown car show in the middle of the square,” Sarmento said. “It was very well received, and we are planning for a couple of those to bring some life downtown. It will be a nice addition to Thunder Nites.”

Skilled Iowa has been an area of interest for Sarmento. 

“Our HR network will also participate in promoting the Skilled Iowa program,” Sarmento said. “They are the ones doing the hiring and looking for employees utilizing Skilled Iowa resources.”

The chamber does host a number of events at member’s businesses, including breakfast and ribbon cuttings.  

Although Newton is a small city, Sarmento believes that there is still room to grow. 

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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