May’s Member of the Month is Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity


Habitat for HumanityMecosta County Habitat for Humanity is well known in the community for building homes and changing lives. In 1992, a group of local individuals interested in eliminating poverty housing in Mecosta County came together to form MCHFH and since then partnered with local families to build 31 new homes in Mecosta County.

A few years ago the MCHFH Board of Directors, following the lead of Habitat International, made the decision to increase their impact within the Mecosta County community. Along with the traditional new home construction program the Board recognized that many current low-income homeowners needed assistance with critical home repairs that they found themselves unable to afford. The Board began focusing on incorporating a program to address that need and in 2016 launched the Brush with Kindness to addresses critical home repairs needed by existing low income homeowners unable to fund urgent repairs when they unexpectedly arise.

The program incorporates the same Habitat/Home Owner Family partnership model as the new home construction program based on need, willingness to partner and the ability to repay. The driving Habitat philosophy is to offer a hand-up not a hand-out and just as the new home construction builds, Brush With Kindness projects are initially funded by MCHFH and the partner family commits to repay the affiliate through affordable payments.

Since launching the Brush with Kindness Program in the spring of 2016 many applications have been received and new applications are submitted regularly. Some of the projects completed and in the pipeline include: wheel chair ramp construction; roof repairs/replacements; furnace replacement; exterior repairs; window replacements; interior water damage repairs; and insulation and weatherization projects.  The number of families assisted annually will depend on the size and scope of qualified project applications, the availability of volunteers willing to assist in these projects and the availability of financial resources.

Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity has also been able to expand in outreach through the affiliate ReStore located at 18387 Northland Drive (north of the Big Rapids Airport). Since opening in 2012 the ReStore has become a wonderful resource for the community by offering new and gently used donated home construction and home improvement materials, furniture and housewares at affordable prices. The store is able to pick up larger items from donors at no cost. The proceeds from the store go toward helping to fund all of the programs of the affiliate.

Habitat for Humanity was founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have an affordable, durable place to live in dignity and safety and MCHFH is committed to recognizing and addressing the areas of need in Mecosta County. For more information, please visit


A Message From Our Director – March 2017

As you probably know, your business success depends largely on marketing. People won’t patronize your business if they don’t know about it, right? The marketing umbrella covers market research, advertising, public relations, promotions and sales.  Your business may offer the best products or services in your industry, but without marketing, your potential customers would not know about them. Without marketing, your sales may crash and the longevity of your business may be at risk.

You know your products and/or services.  You know your target customer, and you know your price points.  Know where to sell to maximize your marketing effectiveness. Younger customers are more likely to shop using a smartphone, shop on a website, and pay with PayPal or a credit card.  Older customers might prefer to shop at retail outlets.  A marketing strategy helps you determine if a particular magazine, newspaper, radio station, social media site, or other website fits into your selling plans.  Advertise with a combination of media outlets to reach the maximum number of potential customers.

Steer yourself towards profits and business growth.  With a good marketing plan in place, you control your sales.  A good plan identifies specific goals for advertising efforts, explains sales to be expected, and estimates when results should be noticed.  Reaching measurable milestones indicates an effective marketing plan.  Based on results, you can determine to stick to certain sales strategies or revise your plan.

If you would like to talk with someone about creating or improving your marketing plan, the Chamber has resources available to you! Give us a call and we can get you set up, free of charge!  As always, if there is anything else we can do for you please don’t hesitate to ask!

March Member of the Month

Congratulations to Trillium Staffing, our Member of the Month!

Trillium was founded in Battle Creek, MI in 1984 by Reńe Poch. Over the past 30+ years Trillium has grown to include 6 specialized brands including: Trillium Staffing Solutions, Trillium Driver Solutions, Trillium Construction Services, Trillium Technical, Trillium Environmental, and Trillium Marine. From humble beginnings to a leader in Staffing and Recruitment, our network of more than 90 branch offices across the United States has allowed us to assist more than 22,000 companies nationwide with their staffing and recruiting needs. Whether the client is seeking temporary, contract, or permanent employees, Trillium can find the best talent to fill any of your staffing needs.

We are proud to be recognized as the 24th Largest Industrial Staffing Firm in the United States, the 60th Largest Staffing Firm in the United States, in the Top 100 Fastest-Growing US Staffing Firms, and a National Best and Brightest Company to Work For. Our clients are partnered with our nearly 400 industry leading recruitment professionals who provide them with an unsurpassed sourcing, recruitment, and staffing plan that is scalable to meet the changing needs of their organization.

2016 Wrap Up

Pictured above L-R: 2017 Chamber President Jeffery Godfrey, Chamber Executive Director Jennifer Heinzman, State Representative Phil Potvin

2016 is just about in the books for the Chamber and what a full year it has been!  As we look back over the last 12 months it is hard to believe all that has taken place. Was it all in one year?

We have just finished up another wonderfully successful Holiday Gala. There are not enough thanks in the world to show how much we appreciate all of the committee members, volunteers, sponsors and businesses that donated to our event.

The foundation of the new Chamber/CVB Welcome Center is being poured as we speak. Another huge thank you to everyone who has already donated to the capital campaign, making our new building a reality.  The Welcome Center is going to be an eye-catching addition to State Street and will allow both the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the Chamber to serve an even greater number of visitors and residents of our area. We can’t wait to show everyone around our new home this spring! If you are still interested in donating to this exciting project, call the Chamber office at (231)796-7649 and ask a staff member how to get involved!

You may have heard that members of the Chamber staff had the opportunity to meet with Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow as she made a stop in Big Rapids as part of her Small Business Tour.  It was an honor to spend time with the senator as she met with local business owners, discussing the current state of small business, as well as the future of politics with regards to the country’s most recent election.

This year, the hard work that has been happening at the Chamber was recognized by the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals as The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce was honored to be named Outstanding Chamber of the Year.  Board Members and Chamber staff attended the awards ceremony, which took place in Ann Arbor at the breathtaking University of Michigan Football Stadium.  While at “The Big House,” the group was able to tour the facility, visiting the locker room and even had the opportunity to go on to the field itself.

Because of the Chamber’s achievement, at our recent Gala, State Representative Phil Potvin presented the Chamber with a proclamation from Governor Rick Snyder. This proclamation recognizes the dedication and hard work from the Chamber which led to the Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award.  The proclamation will find a great home on the wall of our new building.

The goal of the Chamber is to promote the quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County. We are working to achieve this through many new projects, as well as our ongoing efforts.

The Chamber has partnered with the CVB, The City of Big Rapids, Mecosta County, The Jaycees and other community members to form the Mecosta County Trail Alliance. The MCTA is working to help our local communities gain Pure Michigan Trail Town Status, which will help to encourage commerce and tourism within the area.  This effort will begin with Big Rapids, followed by surrounding communities.

Your Chamber of Commerce continues to grow and is looking forward to 2017!  We continue work on our annual events, such as the upcoming Taste of Mecosta, the Community and Family Expo, the Glow Run, the Pioneer Group Chamber Open, the Dam Festival, the Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival, and so much more!

Your Chamber is stronger than ever, but we cannot do it without you and we encourage all of our members to get involved with the activities we have going on all of the time.  Take advantage of the networking opportunities found at Business After Hours and Rise and Shine events.  Volunteer your time to join a committee, helping us to organize all of the great programming and events that the Chamber offers!

Your Chamber staff wishes you and your family a happy and safe holiday season.  We will see you in the new year!

Simple Fall Marketing Ideas

Fall is upon us, and with the changing weather, comes a change in spending habits. Summer is over, students are back to school, and consumers are already planning ahead by saving for the holiday season (which will be here before you know it!) With this in mind, a change in your marketing strategies may be in order. Here are some simple ideas to freshen up your business’ marketing plan for the changing season.

sporacio-cherry-fall-20071.Host an Instagram photo contest. 

Fall is a gorgeous time, when the colors of the leaves change and people are outside at sporting events, fall festivals, pumpkin patches, cider mills and more. Why not challenge your customers to share their best fall pictures with you on Instagram? Or if your business features some fall specific items (i.e. pumpkin spice, fall decor, etc.), challenge customers to share photos of themselves using your products.Be sure they tag your business in the photo.  Those that do so, receive a special discount or incentive from your business.  Be sure to be specific about your promotion, and include any conditions or restrictions, as well as a clear end date for your promotion.

2. Utilize your local media outlets.

Fall high school sports are beginning now as well. Many local media outlets use this time to feature specific local teams on posters, game programs or local radio broadcasts. Contact your local newspaper and radio stations and check out what options they have available to you. You could be included on media that is utilized throught the entire season.

3. Donate to local auctions.

Many organizations use this time of year to organize their big fundraising events.  Often times, one of the big portions of the event is a silent auction.  Create a gift basket, highlighting products available at your business, or donate a gift certificate for a service that you offer. Be sure to include your business information and logo, so that even if someone bids on your item but doesn’t win it, they know where to find it to purchase it themselves.  This is a great opportunity to help a local cause and to promote name recognition of your business within your community.

4. Hold a can drive event.

In keeping with the theme of goodwill, why not hold a canned food drive.  Offer your patrons a discount or special incentive on your services if they bring in a certain number of canned goods.  This could increase traffic to your business, and also help promote commuity goodwill. Be sure to be clear to participants where their donation is going. Again, you have a chance to benefit a local food pantry or shelter, and could inspire others to do the same.

5. Reusable shopping bags.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, why not get your business in everyone’s mind by offering a free reusable shopping bag with your business name and logo featured prominently on the front.  That way, as your customers make their way around town to make their purchases, they are carrying a little piece of your advertising with them.  In order to offset the cost of the bag, you could require patrons make a minimum purchase in order to receive the bag.

These are just a couple of simple ideas to make the most out of your marketing dollar and to help you make the transition from the sizzling days of summer to the cool, crisp autumn afternoons. How does YOUR marketing strategy shift from summer to fall? Share your ideas here. Happy fall!


Chamber Offers Free Business Mentoring with SCORE

Do you want to start a business? Do you need assistance getting started? Do you already own a business but could use help in a specific area?

The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce is happy to announce the reestablishment of the SCORE Counselors to America’s Small Business group (formerly known as Senior Corp of Retired Executives)! This group is made up of both working and retired executives that are willing to donate their time to help current and future business owners succeed.

SCORE offers the nation’s largest network of free, expert business mentors. If you’re just starting a business, SCORE mentors can provide the practical action plan, education and tools you need to open your doors and establish a customer base. Already own a business? SCORE volunteer mentors can help identify ways to increase profit, improve employee and customer satisfaction, and achieve work / life balance. Whether you’re a solopreneur, a nonprofit, a franchisee, a veteran, an independent contractor, a woman- or minority-owned business, or a young or encore (50+) entrepreneur, SCORE can help by providing guidance and resources to help with your decisions.

SCORE volunteer advisers offer expertise in a variety of fields and industries. Get free, customized, business advice from mentors committed to helping you succeed. With SCORE, you can have the honest, confidential and sometimes tough conversations about managing money, motivating your team, and other business topics. Every year, SCORE volunteers help thousands of entrepreneurs start small businesses and achieve new levels of success in their existing businesses.

The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce is also looking for additional mentors; are you interested in becoming a SCORE volunteer? Volunteering at SCORE is a way for you to give back to your community, connect with fellow business owners, and pass on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community.

SCORE volunteers provide confidential business mentoring services, both in person and online. They lead seminars and workshops to help small business owners meet their goals and achieve success. They help expand outreach of SCORE through marketing and alliance building in our local communities. They provide subject matter expertise by industries and professional skills.

Volunteering as a SCORE mentor means you are joining a community of 11,000+ diverse volunteers who are all committed to helping small business owners succeed. Whether you have owned your own small business, come from a Fortune 500 company, retired, college student, have a sincere commitment for helping small businesses or volunteering, there is a place for you as SCORE volunteer. As demand for the program increases, so will the need for volunteers.

SCORE mentors can be your confidant, your cheerleader and your accountability partner on your path to achieving success, so whether you are interested in business mentoring or volunteering, please call the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce at 231-796-7649.

2015 Annual Report

As we move in to 2016, I am proud to look back on all that we have accomplished in this past year! We have made great strides in implementing our three-year strategic plan, with this being the third year, we are now in the beginning stages of creating our plan for the next three years. We have continued our partnership with the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) to increase member value, advanced our members’ accessibility through the use of Mychamberapp, created an educational programming committee, continued our Chamber blog, offered several educational opportunities for businesses, which included hosting nationally recognized speakers, worked with the Small Business Development Center to provide one-on-one business training sessions, created a small business startup guide, created an employee / student relocation handbook, hosted several successful community events and improved referral services for our members – just to name a few of our successes. We would like to sincerely thank everyone that contributed to all of these events and activities! We could not do it without your support!

We are excited to see what 2016 has in store for us! Our plans, for the coming year, include: getting Big Rapids designated as a “Trail Town” to promote use of our trails and encourage tourism, in order to increase the economic impact, reestablish a SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) program to connect entrepreneurs with mentors, bringing the Glow Run back, conducting a membership drive, surveying membership to gather input prior to developing the next strategic plan and creating a Chamber Promotions committee, among other things.

We continue to grow and our Chamber is stronger for it. We have an enthusiastic staff that is always looking for ways to improve our organization. Amanda Greenwood and Angela Cool are very dedicated and are always available and eager to discuss any needs that may arise. Looking forward, we will continue to create programs that will benefit our members and serve as an innovator for the business community. If you have any ideas or suggestions that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are always here for you!

Let us know if you are interested in participating in any of our programs and/or events and as always, please let us know if there is anything that we can do for you!

We wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

2015 – A Year in Review

Events Held

9th Annual Taste of Mecosta County
8th Annual Community & Family Expo
Pioneer Group Chamber Golf Open
4th Annual Dam Festival
47th Annual Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival
Bulldog Bonanza
30th Annual Holiday Gala

Membership Interaction

390     2015 Membership (Oct. 1, 2014—Sept. 30, 2015)
27       New Chamber Members
14       Ribbon Cuttings
17       Ambassador Visits
12       Business After Hours
12       Members of the Month
10       Rise & Shines
52       Members of the Week
6        Lunch & Learns
2         Educational Speakers
2        T.I.P.S. Classes (Training for Intervention Procedures)

New and Ongoing Projects

Legislative Breakfast
Speaker Series
Chamber Blog
Chamber Instagram & Pinterest
Chamber YouTube Station
Smart Texting
Membership Directory
Monthly Chamber Newsletter
Weekly Electronic Chamber Newsletter
Educational Programming
Relocation Initiative
Chamber Costa Rica Tour
Mini-MBA Program
Leadership Mecosta

Community Involvement

Big Rapids Elks
Friends of Ferris
Big Rapids Jaycees
Our Brothers Keeper Shelter
Big Rapids Rotary
Mecosta Area Committee
Broadband Internet Providers
Mecosta County Economic Development
Mecosta County Area CVB
Community Garden Project
Downtown Business Association of Big Rapids
Poverty Reduction Initiative
Project Connect
Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals
Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity
Remus Days
Big Rapids Rotary Club
Salvation Army of Big Rapids
Eagle Village