Group Remains Community Focused, Helps Businesses Build Local Relationships

Writer: Kathy Lynch
Photographer: Alex Ruhs

The Chamber Jeffersontown mission hasn’t really changed over the past half-century. They still “serve and assist their membership by encouraging community spirit and involvement.”

What started more than 50 years ago as a way to create and grow the community of Jeffersontown and its local businesses has now flourished to a non-profit organization with strong ties to its J-Town community as well as throughout the region. As the second largest Chamber of Commerce in the area, they serve more than 900 organizations while hosting 60-70 community and business events yearly.

With five full-time employees, it is quite impressive what this team can accomplish with the help of the many who volunteer for each event. Most of the volunteers are people coming from the member businesses themselves.

“We couldn’t do it without all that external help,” says John Cosby, The Chamber Jeffersontown president.

Gaslight Festival alone relies on at least 200 different volunteers to pull off the fifth largest festival in the region. On average, the Gaslight Festival will have about 250 booths, half are business booths and the other half are arts and crafts. Booths can be for members or non-members. There are usually an estimated 200,000 visitors during the eight-day street party.

That’s what it started as in 1969. A “street party” was the idea of two founding members of The Chamber Jeffersontown, Peg Weber and Jack Durrett. It gets more popular every year. The City of Jeffersontown lends a big hand as well by keeping everyone safe with the presence of the Jeffersontown Police and Fire Departments. Not to mention the city employees who help, too.

The community events have grown over the decades, keeping the people of Jeffersontown, businesses and surrounding areas always in mind. Whether it is the community 5K run, which has been happening for more than 25 years, or the popular Balloon Glow that started 15 years ago at Skyview Park in J-Town and welcomes about 10,000 people. There are events for everyone.

If a motorcycle rally calls your wild side, they have it. For 15 years people have been gathering on their bikes for this ride. And if swinging your 9-iron gets your blood pumping, you can join there, too. The Golf Scramble moves from course to course yearly. Several courses are members of the Chamber as well.

“We like to think we are integrated in the fabric of this community,” Cosby says. “We support this city, being visible here.”

There are many community-wide events hosted by The Chamber Jeffersontown and manned by its members.

“It’s the way it is organized, how it’s community-driven, well run and it’s fun to be associated with,” says Mike Ratterman of Ratterman and Son’s Funeral Home.

Ratterman’s has been an active member of The Chamber Jeffersontown for 30 years.

While the people of Jeffersontown certainly benefit from the efforts and events of The Chamber Jeffersontown, the team also works hard to bring businesses together: networking, building reputations and expanding reach.

“There’s power in talking to your peers,” Cosby says, adding that by networking, business owners can grow their business and clientele.

The list of events offered for the members of The Chamber Jeffersontown is long and most have been taking place for years. The Chamber is happy to celebrate new business openings in the area by hosting ribbon cuttings. At Speed Lunches – which is along the same lines as the “speed dating” that was popular at one time – members get the chance to meet, ask questions and learn from their peers in a timed lunch setting, before moving on to the next table and business.

The annual Business Expo has been a favorite for businesses and the community alike for the past 25 years. It is a trade show, giving business leaders the opportunity to show off their goods, their talents and their services. Usually, there are approximately 140 businesses who set up booths, and you can count on about 1,000 people visiting the Expo for the day.

The Chamber Jeffersontown wants to help the community and its businesses grow and flourish, and one way is by offering a scholarship. They give out four scholarships each year for $2,500 each to working adults, employees of any member business. This gives the employee the chance to finish that degree, whether Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or a certificate from a trade school. The schools must be accredited.

This year’s scholarship winners were announced in June at a scholarship breakfast, with a job fair to follow at the Community Center. The Chamber received about 30 applications this year.

It is important to The Chamber Jeffersontown to have an array of activities and services to offer members. According to Cosby, “One size does not fit all. People’s lives are pretty busy, pretty full. So we do something for everybody.”

If a breakfast networking event is better, then the Chamber offers a bi-monthly Business at Breakfast. Members drop their business cards in a fishbowl and a half an hour later, if their card is randomly picked, they get to show off and fine-tune their best elevator speech for their peers. The cost is only $5 and it gives attendees the chance to meet and learn about each other.

If evenings work best, then the monthly Business Blast could be the answer to meet other members in a relaxed environment.

The Chamber has also hosted the Chamber University for years, an opportunity at no charge to its members, held quarterly. After breakfast and a chance for some networking, attendees are then given an hour with experts that have been brought in for members’ benefit. These speakers are there to help businesses evolve and grow.

The world is changing. The way we communicate has been changing and evolving for a long time. It is imperative that businesses have the knowledge to keep up with growing trends.

“Things have changed. Electronics, Social Media, the way we communicate and can reach a lot of people at any time,” Cosby says.

Dan Vogt of KV Flooring, a Chamber member for more than 20 years, adds, “We support everything here in J-Town and the people. The Chamber has grown with Bluegrass Parkway, where we are. Seems they sure keep up.”

As president of Chamber Jeffersontown since 1995, Cosby says, “Growing up, I was not a very out-going person, I enjoy getting up and going to work in this building. I enjoy the different people I get to interact with each day. It’s the people.”

“There’s changes. It flows, growing accordingly with J-Town itself,” Ratterman says. “The Chamber is instrumental in binding that community of businesses. It is amazing how much they do for this community.”

You can visit The Chamber Jeffersontown online at jtownchamber.com for more information.