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Woletz marks one year as chamber head

Lisa Woletz, executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, has overseen a 31 percent growth in membership in her first year at the helm. (Photo by Micheal Foley)

It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a year.

Lisa Woletz had just been hired as the new executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 24, and was scheduled to speak to the organization at its yearly get-together.

“I was here all of five days when we held last year’s annual meeting,” Woletz said. “It was the most well-attended annual meeting that the chamber had seen in years. I’m not going to say I wasn’t nervous. I was terribly nervous. I thought ‘What am I going to say to these people? They’ve got a brand new person standing in front of them, and everyone makes promises. So, whatever I say, I have to follow through on.’”

Woletz stood up in front of about 300 people and promised to increase chamber membership by 25 percent.

“That meant getting 50 new members,” Woletz said.

Not only was she able to meet that number, she exceeded it. From February to December, Woletz was able to sign-on 65 new members, for a 31 percent increase in membership.

Assembling a team

She credits much of her success to her sales background and the fact that she has been working with chamber organizations for so long. Before taking the job with the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Woletz became familiar with the local business community by selling advertising for the New Richmond News.

Woletz is also quick to point out that she had a lot of allies helping her out.

“This is a team effort,” Woletz said. “I’m not doing this by myself. The businesses are seeing the energy changing in town and looking forward to the things that are coming. They want to be involved. They want to be on the cusp of that before it happens. They want to be right at the top of it.”

Another secret to the chamber’s success is employee Steph Cooke, who has worked the front desk at the chamber office for more than 20 years.

“When you’ve got somebody like that to rely on, it helps to increase your membership,” Woletz said.

Another part of the team Woletz likes to credit with the membership boom is the Chamber Ambassadors.

“Our ambassadors are working for the greater good of the New Richmond area every single day. With that comes new membership,” Woletz said.

Since Woletz has taken the reins, the organization has doubled its number of ambassadors from 12 to more than 25.

Still loving it

As Woletz prepares for this year’s annual meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 29, she reflects on both the challenges and the joys of her year on the job.

“I enjoy my job very much,” Woletz said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I dread coming to work. I knew there would be challenges with this job — and there have been some great challenges — and there have been some fantastic rewards.”

Woletz said that one of the most challenging aspects of the job has been remaining neutral as people come to her with opinions.

“I’m a people person. And because I’m a people person, people like to come talk to me. They also like to express their opinions,” Woletz said. “I have to remember that this is my professional job, and I can’t take it personally.”

On the flip side, Woletz said the best part of her job is working with the business community and watching the excitement grow.

“We have no place but up to go, especially with the bridge coming in and businesses continuing to move into the area,” Woletz said. “The ones that we have here are flourishing.”

Moving forward

Though she’s seen plenty of success in her first year, Woletz is determined to ensure she doesn’t hit a sophomore slump. She has plenty planned for 2014.

“We will focus on rebuilding our tourism efforts,” Woletz said. “We want to put New Richmond back on the map as a destination, whether it’s as a day trip or an overnight trip. We want to see the restaurants and hotels full.”

Woletz points to a new committee structure that will help accomplish all the chamber’s 2014 goals. There will be specific committees focusing on tourism, membership, manufacturing and commerce, and promotions (with a retail focus). And Woletz is quick to point out that the committees are open to members not just from downtown New Richmond, but from the entire greater New Richmond area.

Woletz also says members should stay tuned to member newsletters to learn about new partnerships, additional programming and educational opportunities that will be announced throughout the year.

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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