Community Content: Whitehall's chamber of commerce growing and adapting with city

Nathan Yolles
Guest columnist

Most of us are familiar with the term chamber of commerce, but unless you’re a member of one, you might not know exactly what a chamber does or how chambers benefit members and its community.

Although chamber organizations have subtle differences and nuances, all chambers essentially are a collection of businesses, business owners or entrepreneurs whose goal is to form a network that in turn furthers the interests of the member businesses within the community. 

Nathan Yolles is a Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce board member.

What makes the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and its 125-plus – and growing – members unique is that the organization continues to grow and adapt as the city of Whitehall attracts new businesses and reinvests into the community, making it a better place for employers, employees, visitors and residents.

Adding to this, the Whitehall chamber’s membership is as diverse as our community, with members from all sectors and sizes of businesses, ranging from sole proprieties to major corporate headquarters.

With networking being one of the major benefits of chamber membership, our member businesses take advantage of each other’s wide range of perspectives and fields of expertise.

To foster these interactions, the Whitehall chamber holds monthly lunch meetings to periodic after-hours events to keep conversation casual and collaborative. The Whitehall chamber looks to provide content at these monthly meetings through speakers that present on topics relevant to the business community. Some examples of these topics are: both the State of the City and State of the Schools addresses, various community-engagement speakers and spotlights on local businesses and restaurants, just to name a few.

In addition to networking, businesses enjoy multiple other benefits of Whitehall chamber membership, including access to business and community news and content, collective advocacy in the form of a unified business voice within the community and a number of member-only discounts, such as on LegalShield services, Office Depot products, medical-benefit plans for businesses of all sizes and Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation programs. Many times, just taking advantage of the member benefits offered will more than cover the cost of the annual membership dues.

New for this year, the Whitehall chamber has established an advocacy committee to further enhance the benefit the chamber delivers to its members. The purpose of this committee is to act as a conduit between local and state decision-makers and Whitehall businesses – providing an overarching voice between the two groups.

Sadly, due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the last “in-person” chamber meeting took place nearly 12 months ago, in February 2020.

But in a time during which many area chambers have struggled to continue monthly meetings or provide content for members, it is a testament to the leadership of the Whitehall chamber president, Lois Kolada, and her board of directors, who have fought to keep this chamber active and relevant through this pandemic.

Monthly meetings featuring speakers are held via Zoom and are planned to continue as such for at least a few more months. Although these meeting are an excellent resource, we all look forward to the fellowship in-person meetings provide, and we can’t wait to gather again soon.

Whether you’re a local business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, I hope you will consider joining us, both to enjoy these benefits and to help the Whitehall business community continue to thrive. For more information, including a membership application, go to whitehallareachamber.org.

Nathan Yolles is a Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce board member.