As employees of the Chamber, we serve in jobs covering most of the disciplines found in other small businesses – communications, finance, marketing, customer service and event planning; additional responsibilities include advocacy, providing educational opportunities, serving as an information hub for the community, acting as Public Notaries, etc. Our mission is to “promote quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County”.
In general, we focus to some degree on five primary goals: building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; promoting those communities; striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; representing the unified voice of the employer community; and reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. We share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of our communities, built on thriving employers.
With that being said, we often get involved in projects that may seem out of our wheelhouse but do, in fact, have a major impact on our members. We are currently working on initiatives involving childcare, robotics, manufacturing, and literacy in an effort to alleviate barriers to employment. We are focusing on literacy this month because March is Reading Month.
The Chamber, the Great Start Collaborative, SLD Read, the Big Rapids Community Library, the Mecosta County Development Corporation, the public schools, the MOISD, Ferris State University, and others, have joined together and created Mecosta County Reads, an initiative that aims to increase literacy in all sectors of our community. Along with providing information on available services and promoting literacy, this group aims to bring awareness to the depth of the problem in our area and create a safe space where people can seek assistance without social repercussions.
This group has been collecting and analyzing data, discussing ways to promote reading with young children, looking into alternatives for adults with literacy issues, and collecting information to be easily shared in one spot for all ages. Although we have a long road ahead of us, our goal is to change the culture that is currently allowing 50% of our kindergarteners to enter school below reading level in Mecosta County. According the West Michigan Regional Dashboard, that number increases to 56% below reading level by the third grade. These statistics grow into far too many adults with literacy issues. By improving literacy at all ages, we will cover the gamut, changing the culture and creating a more literate community across the board, and, in turn, increasing the workforce.
A solid foundation in literacy can be an essential aspect of job attainment, career advancement, and potential successes. For safety reasons, literacy is essential in many manufacturing jobs, for example, employees need to be able to read warning signs and instructions. Individuals with literacy issues would have difficulty performing these types of jobs, if they were even offered the opportunity. For many office positions, a requirement of the application process is to write a cover letter along with submitting a resume; a solid literacy foundation would play a vital part in the successful composition and presentation of such materials.
If you or someone you know could benefit from one of the many services offered in Mecosta County aimed to help improve literacy, please contact the Chamber for more information or log on to the Big Rapids Public Library website to see a complete list of available options.
As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!