Great year almost in the books at the chamber

   What an outstanding year it has been for the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry. As the Voice of Business in Whatcom County, we are actively working on your behalf to preserve and promote a positive business environment for you and your business. These efforts have included:
   Promoting the Community: The 2005 Ski to Sea Festival was a great success, bringing thousands of people to the area, and driving some $5 million in economic benefit to Bellingham and Whatcom County. In addition, we sent out hundreds of relocation packets, gave interviews to dozens of outside media outlets, and supported the efforts of the Bellingham/Whatcom Convention & Visitors Bureau.
   Creating a Strong Economy
   In addition to supporting our friends at the Economic Development Corporation and the Small Business Development Center, the Chamber partners to bring educational opportunities on important business topics, and works to promote the creation of family wage jobs from our local business community.
   We are also a nationwide leader in working to keep our border open to trade and commerce, partnering with like- minded organizations in Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y. The Chamber has helped focus media attention from across North America on the economic and social issues which may arise from plans to limit access between Canada and the U.S.
   Providing Networking Opportunities
   Our two primary activities, the Business After Business and the Networking Breakfast, continue to grow in popularity.
   We set new attendance records for the breakfast several times this year, and are averaging 160 to 170 people each month.
   The Networking Breakfast is held on the second Friday of every month at 7:30 a.m. at Northwood Hall, and all are welcome.
   Speaking on Behalf of Business with Government
   As your voice of business, we are heard in Olympia on a number of important issues, actively lobbying in 2005 to stop the estate tax, holding off B&O tax increases and supporting efforts to bring resources to Whatcom County.
   We capped our year off in 2005 with an outstanding annual meeting, at which we awarded our first ever Man and Woman of the Year and Small and Large Businesses of the Year.
   Our Small Business winner was Print and Copy Factory, our Large Business winner was Mt. Baker Ski Area, our Woman of the Year was Vi Zurline, and our Man of the Year was Tut Asmundsen.
   We also presented Lydia Place with our first Nonprofit of the Year Award.
   As our new program year approaches, we are gearing up to make many more improvements in 2006.
   Better coverage of local government activities, new events, and more programs for businesses outside of Bellingham are on our agenda, and they can be achieved with your continued support.
   On behalf of the chamber’s board of directors, and our 2006 board chair, Troy Muljat, thanks to everyone who helped make last year a great success!
See you in 2006!

Ken Oplinger is president and CEO of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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