By Susan Redden
Members and guests celebrated with food, music, birthday cake — and even party hats — on Tuesday to mark the 95th birthday of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
An open house on the chamber parking lot attracted a large crowd, despite a light drizzle that started midway through the celebration.
The birthday also marked the start of the chamber’s membership drive, said Kirstiestet Smith, communications director.
“We didn’t have a membership drive last year because of the tornado, so we’re trying to make this one bigger and better,” she said.
Smith said that while the chamber offers a wide variety of services, she believes a key is the connection it provides among members “so they can develop relationships and share resources.”
Chamber member John Motazedi, president of SNC Squared Technology Group, praised work by the chamber to help businesses and the community rebound after the May 2011 tornado.
“I’ve never seen a chamber more involved in the community,” he said. “They saved my bacon last year. They stepped up, took leadership and had a big part in the recovery.”
Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said the chamber is “vital to the community.”
“They support growth not only in business, but in our schools and the whole community,” she said. “We all work together, and it’s a good partnership.”
The chamber’s approach must be comprehensive to include a good work force, education, housing and quality of life issues, said Rob O’Brian, chamber president.
“The things that are important to the community and its residents are the same things that are important to businesses when they want to grow and expand,” he said.
Ron Richard, a former Joplin mayor and now a state senator who often focuses on job growth and economic development, noted that the chamber has expanded its scope in services and geography over the years.
“They work regionally, and that’s important since Joplin is on the border, surrounded by other states,” he said. “When we help each other, we all do better.”
THE JOPLIN AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE has about 1,100 members, with a goal of adding at least 95 more over the next year.