Local Edmond: A conversation with Sherry Jordan, Edmond Chamber of Commerce President

Sherry Jordan is entering her second year as the president of the Edmond Chamber of Commerce. Under her leadership, the Chamber introduced some new policies and events in 2017, and 2018 looks to be a continuation of that trend. We sat down with Sherry in January and asked her to give us a look at the year ahead. This interview has been edited for clarity and concision. This interview appears in the January issue of Edmond Active.

EA: We wanted to touch base with the Chamber to see what kind of events and programs you have in store for the year.

SJ: Perfect! To start, we had our first annual Dancing With the Stars in 2017, so in September 2018 we’ll have our second annual Dancing With the Stars. We haven’t picked the judges or the dancers yet, but that was our big thing to do last year.

Dancing With the Stars was a trial event that replaced an annual auction, and it was really fun, it was a really great event. We’re really looking forward to that again.

As far as our programming goes, Edmond Young Professionals is starting a new mentoring program, where we’ll be matching mentors up with our Young Professionals members. We’ll also look at matching our young professionals up as mentors to some college-age students.

We’re also looking at starting a diversity and inclusion council. We feel that there is some work that could be done in that area in our community. And so we’re going to tackle that. We’re not exactly sure what that’s going to look like yet, but that’s on our list of things to do.

We have restructured our membership dues and how we treat our pricing and memberships and sponsorships, so that’s a big thing for us. And we’re going to be supporting progression of the Performing Arts Center. We’re not saying “Yes, it should be built,” or “No, it shouldn’t,” but we’re going to be supportive of progressing on with the next phase.

That’s the site selection, where the consultants are going to go out and come back with a recommendation of three or four different sites that it could potentially be placed on. And then from there, we’ll be working to coordinate ownership between the City of Edmond and the University of Central Oklahoma. The Performing Arts Center could be a really good economic driver for Edmond and specifically for Downtown Edmond, so that’s something we’re going to be supportive of and be a voice for. Our main purpose here is to be a voice for business and to promote economic prosperity for Edmond, so that’s definitely something that would bring in some good economic growth here.

It is an election year, so we will be doing candidate forums as needed. The filing dates haven’t all come in yet to see who is going to be running, but we probably won’t do a Gubernatorial candidate forum; I’m sure there will be a lot of those across the state. We’ll instead most likely focus on some of the other races.

We’re also going to be doing two publications this year. One is called the Voice, which is basically a summarization of our programs over the year. It’s got a section about our oldest members, and that kind of thing. We’re looking at doing a workforce-centered magazine that will be new in 2018, that could be used to recruit companies to come to Edmond, as well as highlight companies that are already here and the type of workforce that they need.

On top of that, we’re going to highlight what the different educational entities around here are doing to help educate that workforce. So whether that’s UCO, or whether that’s Francis Tuttle, not everybody needs a four-year college degree. There are a lot of workforce needs out there for things other than that, so we’re looking at doing a magazine on that.

We’re going to be developing policy on issue advocacy. We already have policy that we follow if a candidate wants us to endorse them, but one of the things we learned in the Spring Creek issue [from last year] was that it would probably be a good idea to have a set of guidelines that we use when we decide whether or not we’re going to support an issue. One of the things that was really frustrating for us was that the developer didn’t get out in front of the media like he needed to, and we couldn’t necessarily do that effectively for him. So just some different guidelines to kind of protect us in the future on issues that we want to advocate for.

EA: What are some broader goals and priorities for the Chamber in 2018?

SJ: The first one is small business. We want to provide educational programs, peer support, recognition, and various networking opportunities to our small-business members. Over 85 percent of our members have less than 10 employees.

Our next priority is to develop the next generation of leaders. The main goal of the Young Professionals program is to attract and retain young professionals to the Edmond area. We do that through our Young Professionals program, as well as our Adult Leadership Edmond program. We also have a Youth Leadership Edmond program for high school juniors.

Our third priority is networking. We provide our members opportunities to develop business relationships. You’re much more likely to do business with someone you’ve met before, who you know. On top of that, we want people to keep their business transactions local. And when I say local I don’t mean that that doesn’t mean they can’t go to the local Target.

Our fourth priority is government relations. Advocacy at the governmental level is very important to us, and we do that a lot at the local level, but also at the state and the national level.

The fifth is community outreach and membership development. We want to be a catalyst for the critical issues that face our members and our community. Things like the Performing Arts Center fall into that kind of category.

And then we have three strategic goals which are a little bit more specific, which are: deliver value to our members, advance community excellence, and maintain organizational relevance. The Chamber has had to evolve over the years, because people who are between the ages of 20 and 35 are a lot different from people who are my age, and you’re not looking for in a Chamber what I was looking for in a Chamber at, say, 26 years old. We have to evolve and we have to make sure that we’re meeting the demands of the decision-makers and businesses. We can’t just cater to the 50-year-olds.

EA: What does outreach start to look like for the Edmond Chamber?

Well, one aspect of this is our Diversity and Inclusion Council. I think one thing that’s really important to younger people and Millennials in general is that they want everyone to feel included. They don’t like formal, stuffy sit-down meetings. They like more meetup-type situations. Our Edmond Young Professionals group has a Lunch Bunch, where it’s a very casual affair. We set a date and a time, but it’s not something where you’re going and you’re sitting and you’re listening to a speaker and then you’re leaving. It’s more networking, it’s more connecting, it’s more involved. And then also, with our Edmond Young Professionals events, we team up with a non-profit.

For example, for our Christmas party that we did for them we teamed up with the HOPE Center. And we said, “If you want drink tickets, you have to bring at least a $15 gift card to somewhere that a teenager would like to shop, so that we can donate it to the HOPE Center for Christmas.” Because teenagers are the ones who get left out a lot of times at Christmastime. And the HOPE Center’s like, “yeah, we can get stuff for young kids all day long, but it’s the teenagers we really need help for.”  And the people who are in our Young Professionals group, they like that. They like to think, “Okay, I’m not just going to some party and drinking, I’m going somewhere to help, you know, a non-profit in the community do something for other people.

We want to be bold leaders, we want to have positive change, and we want to have energy and excitement. I think if you’re doing the right thing that those people will seek you out.

EA: Thank you for speaking with us.

SJ: Thank you!

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Trevor Hultner is an Oklahoma City writer.

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