Every year, the Lodi Chamber of Commerce recognizes an individual who has rendered significant service to the community at its annual Citizen of the Year dinner.
But this year, there was no award given out. Instead, the chamber opted to recognize its volunteers, member businesses, and the Lodi community as it celebrated its 100th anniversary Thursday night.
Chamber president and CEO JP Doucette said he and his staff are already working on new programs that will benefit both member businesses and the Lodi community for years to come.
“I am extremely honored to be taking the helm as the Chamber turns 100 years old,” he said. “We are working hard to expand our membership so that we can continually improve and expand our business workshops and trainings.”
One of those programs the chamber is excited to participate in, Doucette said, is the City of Lodi’s new microloan program that will provide local start-ups and very small businesses with as much $50,000 in financing to stay alive in a struggling economy.
The Lodi City Council got a first glimpse of the program on Tuesday, and is expected to formally approve the program later this year.
Doucette added that the chamber will continue to be an outspoken voice at city council meetings, as well as the State Capitol, for its more than 800 members
“This is an especially critical time for us to invest in our local infrastructure and workforce so that we are poised for success in a rapidly changing world,” he said. “The chamber is going to be working to align the business community, educational institutions, and local leadership to make Lodi an attractive place to live and do business.”
While it is hard for the chamber’s current staff to recall what the agency has done over the entire century of its existence, they noted some of the accomplishments it has made during former CEO and president Pat Patrick’s tenure.
During Patrick’s 21 years as president and CEO, the chamber held 1,500 ribbon cuttings, using 30,000 feet of big ribbon for bows. It also went through five pairs of scissors and handed out 2,000 plaques to new members.
In addition, the chamber created seven committees and nine signature events, including the Downtown Farmers Market, the Lodi Street Faire, and Hall of Fame dinners.
The chamber won the top award from the Western Association of Chamber Executives in 2014, beating out Denver, Irvine, Phoenix and Tacoma, all cities many times larger than Lodi.
Patrick was the WACE Board of Directors vice chairman in 2017 and led the organization in a branding study that surveyed 2,500 business owners to help the chamber industry reposition its brand to focus on “helping business prosper and communities thrive.”
In 2020, Patrick received WACE’s most prestigious award, the Excellence in Leadership award, named after Russell E. Pettit.
Winning the award while being president of the WACE Board of Directors was a goal Patrick said he thought he’d never achieve.
Patrick will be honored with a lifetime membership in WACE next month, and also teach a breakout session at its annual conference.
Mona Schulman, vice president and human resources director at Pacific Coast Producers, said one of the programs Patrick and the chamber implemented that has been beneficial to the community is Vision 2020.
The chamber developed the plan with input from more than 65 Lodi residents and business leaders, with the goal of improving Lodi’s economic future.
Schulman said Vision 2020 helped educate high school students by letting them know trade schools were an alternate option to a four-year university, and allowed them to obtain industry careers in town, which helped Lodi’s economy.
“We feel that the chamber has always been helpful,” she said. “Pat was able to develop great relationships with local officials in the city, and he could get you anything when you needed it.”
She said the chamber also showed it cared about businesses and their employees through the formation of the Healthy Lodi Committee,
Partnering with Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, the committee and hospital employees visited the plant to provide employees information about proper nutrition, Schulman said.
“We look forward to continued work with the chamber on local economic development,” she said.
F&M CEO Kent Steinwert said other chambers of commerce in similar cities have not been as successful as Lodi’s.
“The chamber, more than anyone else, recognized businesses and our employees,” he said. “And by helping businesses, you create jobs and maintain that effort together to help businesses be successful.”
Steinwert said the chamber’s efforts to help local businesses thrive contributed to making Lodi one of the nicest places to live in the Central Valley.
“The bank is thankful for the chamber’s 100-year effort,” he said. “It’s made a huge difference in the services that businesses provide. We’ll continue to support the chamber and its services.”
“We are so thrilled to celebrate the 100-year celebration,” Chamber director of membership Marina Narvarte said. “As a director of membership, I have learned (to) adopt, connect and work to improve the local business environment and strengthen communities through advocacy, networking, and more. Whether it’s small or large businesses, I always say their business is my business, because without them our Chamber wouldn’t be able to stand strong today.”
To learn more about the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, visit www.lodichamber.org.
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