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Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce requests $15,000 subsidy for 2023; awaits city approval

The Dickinson City Commission convened for its regularly scheduled meeting this week, hearing from various city entities including a presentation from the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce regarding a request for annual funding. The chamber is primarily funded by membership investments and sustained through sponsorships of community events. In years past, the City of Dickinson has supported the chamber through membership investments, sponsorships and attendance at events such as State of the City, Banquet in a Field, Southwest Night with the Legislators and candidate forums. For its current fiscal year, the chamber received $10,000 from the City of Dickinson. Now, the chamber is asking for a $15,000 subsidy for 2023.

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A crowd of people dance along to the music during an annual Harvest Festival, hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Dickinson State University. (Contributed / Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce)

With more than 450 members representing all sectors of the economy, the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce is an organization that connects business and community to help improve the quality of life for Dickinson residents. Currently, the chamber is in its second year of the two-year commitment with the City of Dickinson, and is requesting for a subsidy of $15,000 for 2023.

Executive Director Carter Fong addressed the importance of why the city should maintain that partnership during a special presentation to the Dickinson City Commission at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. Previously, the city has provided subsidies in the amount of $10,000 for fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

“That was presented… when the chamber was probably in a very different and uncertain place. They were rolling out their membership drive a year ago at this time, really not knowing if Dickinson area businesses were going to be able to make any commitment to the chamber because we had many restrictions and COVID on the rise in our community,” Fong noted.

Before Fong came on board as the new executive director earlier this year, the chamber was navigating the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic well, he said.

“In October of 2020, COVID-19 was on a steep rise in our community, and our Board of Directors conservatively budgeted as if we might have 20% attrition in our membership, which could have been devastating,” Fong said. “I arrived in May of 2021 as our new executive director, grateful to find out that through the hard work of our past and present staff and board, we avoided that worst case scenario and nearly held steady on membership and delivery of services.”

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From left, Dickinson Area Chamber Board President Danielle Kick, Professional Development Committee Lemonade Day Council Co-Chair Katie Culver-Marsh, Mayor Scott Decker, Dickinson Area Chamber Executive Director Carter Fong, Professional Development Committee Vice-Chair Jeremiah Thorpe along with five children that make up the group "The Lemonies" — who were the Lemonade Day winners — wave to the camera June 19, 2021, in Dickinson. (Contributed / Lynette Locken Photography-The Traveling Lens)

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Executive Director Carter Fong of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce provides input to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at City Hall, regarding the chamber's funding request for 2023. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Since 2019, the City of Dickinson and Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce have continued this partnership by not only providing funding through subsidies but also participating in events that the chamber hosts such as State of the City , Southwest Night with the Legislators and Banquet in a Field . In 2019, the city supported the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce with a contribution of approximately $2,900.

“While the city delivers essential services to residents, we also provide vital services and events that inform and engage the community that the city likely could not host on its own,” Fong said.

Though the chamber is primarily funded by membership investments and sustained through the sponsorships of community events, the city plays a vital role in contribution efforts, Fong noted.

“While we aim to add member benefits, there will not be an increase to our membership dues structure for 2022, as approved by our Board of Directors. While most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we are aware of workforce and supply chain struggles that many are experiencing. Our membership drive is currently in progress and we hope to gain and retain toward the goal of 450 local business members again for 2022,” Fong said, adding, “We have witnessed new interest and growth in the areas and events where we already partner, such as Harvest Festival, the State of the City luncheon and Banquet in a Field. We have a growth mindset now at the chamber and would appreciate a partnership with the city that would be at least equal to, if not greater than years past.”

According to city documents, if the City of Dickinson approves the subsidy for $15,000, the city “will receive a return on the investment through sponsorship visibility, marketing opportunities and attendance at events and programs.” City documents also stated that it is not uncommon for municipalities to contribute to the work of local chambers of commerce throughout North Dakota and in the United States.

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“Each chamber functions in accordance with the needs of their community,” a city document read.

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A mother and her son enjoy some pumpkin time during a previous annual Harvest Festival, which was hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce. (Contributed / Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce)

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Guests dine at the 3rd Annual Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce "Banquet in a Field: Western Style" July 13, 2021, which took place on the local family farm of the Ridl family, featuring a deliciously educational summer opportunity for agricultural producers to sit down with non-agricultural consumers and converse about how production agriculture gets to the dinner plate. More than 140 guests attended the event, which included a social hour, al fresco dining, farm tour, locally brewed beverages, live music and more. (Contributed / Annika Plummer)

During the meeting, Fong remarked on the chamber’s accomplishments despite the setbacks of the ongoing pandemic.

“I’m happy to report that our fiscal house is in order and we have a full team at the chamber including myself, our Marketing and Communications Director Megan Klassen and our Administrative Assistant Betty Fred,” he said. “We have sufficient operating reserves; our Board of Directors passed a balanced budget for our fiscal year 2022 at their September retreat. Our membership drive is underway and we are reaching for an attainable goal — a membership increase not based on dues, but based on participation in the community.”

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City Commissioner John Odermann speaks at Southwest Night with the Legislators on Feb. 22, 2021, at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Bismarck, an event hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

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From left, Dickinson Public Schools Interim Superintendent Marcus Lewton, Dickinson Parks and Recreation Executive Director James Kramer, Rep. Mike Lefor, City Administrator Brian Winningham and Ryan Jilek of Stark Development Corp. discuss upcoming plans for Dickinson at the 2021 State of the City Luncheon on May 20, 2021, at the Dickinson Public Schools North Campus. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Though the subsidy request for $15,000 won’t be approved until 2022 when the city looks at its upcoming budget cycle, Carter noted that he wants to continue maintaining open discussions with the city.

My appearance at the city commission meeting was simply an effort to be transparent with our local residents and with our chamber member businesses. I intend to provide an annual update to the community via the (Dickinson) City Commission moving forward,” he added.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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