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Sycamore chamber celebrates 500-member milestone

Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)
Rose Treml, executive director for the Sycamore Chamber, speaks Thursday about the young professionals who completed the chamber’s leadership academy at the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce’s 98th annual meeting.

SYCAMORE – Rose Treml made it to her magic number in 2012.

After years of closing in on 500 businesses, Treml, executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, celebrated surpassing the milestone with those members Thursday at the St. Mary’s Activity Center in Sycamore.

The annual chamber meeting, titled Strength in Numbers, recognized outstanding local businesses and the chamber’s march toward 502 members in 2012. The large membership already has paid dividends, especially in advocacy efforts, Treml said.

“When you tell your representatives or the governor that you represent over 500 businesses, your message is a little more impactful,” Treml said. “That’s why the theme is strength in numbers.”

One major reason for the chamber’s membership accomplishment in 2012 was the addition of 100 new members.

Entrepreneur Becki Burke decided to join the chamber after three years of running a home business. Burke, who sells handbags for California-based Gigi Hill, said joining the chamber has opened doors for potential clients.

Treml said many more home-based businesses are interested in joining their local chambers of commerce because of the networking opportunities they provide.

“I decided it was time for me to take that next step after running my business for three years,” Burke said. “It’s already been very beneficial in making so many new connections.”

Thursday’s celebration was not only about new members but also those who have helped shape Sycamore for years.

Richard and Beth Willey won the Clifford Danielson Outstanding Citizen Award for their decades of community contributions. The award honors individuals who strive for the highest levels of professional accomplishment and have devoted their time, energy and career to enhance the quality of life for Sycamore residents.

Richard Willey, who as a 26-year-old co-founded a bank now known as American Midwest Bank in Sycamore, was recognized along with his wife for their work with the Kishwaukee Education Consortium, Sycamore Rotary and other community organizations.

Richard Willey said he met his wife in Sycamore, sent his children through school in Sycamore and realized his professional dream in Sycamore, so it was the city and residents that deserved the recognition.

“If you look at all the common denominators here, it’s Sycamore, Sycamore, Sycamore,” he said. “So thank you. … What a great place.”

Beth Willey was honored for her work with the Sycamore Rotary and parent teacher organization for Sycamore School District 427, which she attended as a student.

Other organizations that received annual awards included Driv-Lok Inc., Kishwaukee College, DeKalb County Farm Bureau, Sycamore Antiques and the Jane Fargo Hotel. The hotel was recognized for its major rebranding that included new signage and the revitalization of the hotel’s restaurant, The Mitchel Lounge.

Chamber President Rob Wilkinson, executive director of the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, said 2012 was a banner year but there still is work to be done.

He said the chamber needs to focus on developing a long-term strategic plan, engaging young professionals even after they graduate from chamber programs and supporting and offering development resources for the many small businesses that only have a couple employees.

“We’re very excited about getting to that milestone but we realize we have tremendous work ahead of us,” Wilkinson said. “The easy work is behind us, the hard work is ahead of us.”

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