In early 2016, Venango Chamber President and CEO Susan Williams met with a few Chamber board members about a problem we were facing in Venango County–people talking negatively about our area.
This wasn’t new–the same discussion had been happening for years. The Chamber has been working since 2007 to engage young people through the Future Leaders and Entrepreneurs Exchange (FLEX), our young professionals group, but we felt more needed to be done to support those who chose to be here and encourage others to call our region home–both young and old.
Fortunately, the Chamber was awarded a grant through PNC Charitable Trusts from the Elizabeth S. Black Charitable Trust to get a program going. The timing worked out great, as Chamber intern Ashley Sheffer (previously Cowles) was soon to graduate from college with a degree in communications, marketing, and public relations.
Ashley started in May 2016 and spent the next several months holding focus groups, researching, writing website content, creating branding, and more, leading to the launch of what we named “Be Here” on January 26, 2017.
After three years, what does the impact of Be Here look like? Here are some examples:
- Having more than 50 residents act as“Be Here Ambassadors” by spreading positivity throughout the area and taking ownership of the message of Be Here–to change the narrative here
- Meeting with a new community member over coffee and helping them feel at home here
- Speaking with students and seeing them get excited about opening a business here
- Helping a young professional connect with a business, leading to a new job opportunity
- Seeing Be Here stickers on cars and business doors, billboards throughout the county, and positive social media posts and comments
- Coming together to discuss challenges our region faces and brainstorming solutions
- Providing a group of high school students Be Here materials to deliver to dozens of local businesses
- Bringing more than 50 people together for a training on creating a culture of customer service and visioning for our future
We’re excited to look back on what Be Here has done in our region and we look forward to making even more of an impact in the next year.
We invite you to explore the Be Here site and connect with us to see how you can get involved in helping us make it known that this is a great place to “be here.”