The Brown County Chamber of Commerce had a good year in 2015, and the future promises growth and opportunity, chamber President Mike Stieglitz told members at the organization’s annual meeting Jan. 28 at the Brown County History Center.

That success included 20 new members — bringing the total to 92 — and a growth in dues revenue that left money to set aside for the future, he said.

Stieglitz noted the importance of not only the numbers but the businesses behind them. The growth included well-established local businesses and even former Chamber members who decided to return.

Among those joining and rejoining, the Chamber’s efforts to focus on needs in the business community is seen as a positive change over the past, he said.

At the beginning of 2015, Chamber board members identified the need to have a better answer when asked about the value of Chamber membership.

Stieglitz cited the Job Connect job fair, which gives Chamber members a free opportunity to discover potential employees.

In addition, Chamber members who have a major change in their business can have a free ribbon-cutting ceremony and newspaper advertisement.

Looking to the future, Stieglitz said the Chamber intends to hire a part-time office assistant. All Chamber work is done by volunteer board members.

A recurring theme for the evening was leadership, from Stieglitz’s opening words to those of his father, Gerry Stieglitz, to the keynote speaker, Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Boulton of the Indiana National Guard.

Business owners are leaders to their employees and The Chamber and its members as leaders within the community, speakers said.

Mike Stieglitz talked about the expectations his late mother set for him.

“It was my mom who taught me the value of being involved within my community, to give back to others, and to build up those around me,” he said.

Stieglitz talked the Chamber donating to the Lions Club’s 4th of July fireworks and about the annual Reality Store, an event that gives middle school students a taste of adult responsibilities.

He also talked about Launch Brown County, a Chamber initiative that is intended to support new businesses that need a professional space as they are starting out. The Chamber also is represented on the town’s revolving loan fund committee, intended to help businesses start, grow or sustain.

Stieglitz also cited continuing efforts to connect the Chamber with local government committees. He stressed the importance of business leaders building relationships in their community.

The Stieglitzes’ Nashville McDonald’s was named the Chamber’s Business of the Year for doing that.

Gerry Stieglitz talked about how important it is to them to be not just in the community but a part of the community. He said “taking care of business” is about not just seeing to the profit margin, but taking care of employees and the needs of the community.

In introducing them, local Realtor Danny Key mentioned McDonald’s support of local veterans and the free food the restaurant provides for emergency responders.

“It’s our pleasure to be here,” Gerry Stieglitz said. “The things we do in the community, that’s just from our hearts.”

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.