Monday, March 21, 2011

Attend America's Small Business Summit 2011 in D.C.

America’s Small Business Summit (May 23-25 in Washington, D.C.) brings together business owners and local and state chamber executives in Washington to rally for free enterprise, entrepreneurship and economic opportunity.

Over the course of three days, summit attendees will network, meet with their elected officials to advocate for pro-growth policies and hear from Washington insiders and business experts on policies that are impacting American businesses.

Contact Julie Fiesel at or 507-424-5665 if you are interested in learning more or attending with a group of Rochester Chamber members.
Here's what a few of last year's attendees had to say about the summit.

“The U.S. Chamber Small Business Summit should be given consideration to attend. I would highly encourage anyone who is thinking about attending to get more information and considering being a part of the Rochester contingency. I enjoyed networking with potential clients on a national scale as well as learning about issues that are affecting small businesses (like health care). The speakers were outstanding.”
- Alan DeKeyrel, CWS, Inc.

"Why should someone go? To hear first hand from key economists in the country and other senior level people about what is going on at the national level and how we can make changes on a local level. The sessions were energized with business leaders and owners all wanting to find out how we can grow jobs in America and turn our economy around. From the panelists to the speakers there are many messages to take back home and share with others on how we can all do more in our own business and communities. As a business owner, CEO, or senior manager, the opportunities to meet with various legislators and senators and to share “best practices” with other business owners is invaluable."
- Melissa Brinkman, Custom Alarm

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Custom Alarm and CWS, Inc. Named Top 100 Small Businesses in the U.S. for Second Consecutive Year

YOUR Vote Needed for Which Business Should Win the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Community Excellence Award

Cast Your Vote for Rochester’s very own- Custom Alarm/Custom Communications, Inc.

Two Rochester area small businesses have once again been recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for each being one of the top 100 small businesses in the United States. Custom Alarm/Custom Communications, Inc., has been named a Blue Ribbon Small Business Award winner and CWS, Inc, has been named a Free Enterprise Honoree. The awards are designed to recognize businesses that demonstrate excellent business practices in several areas, including: business strategy, employee development, community involvement and customer service.

As a Blue Ribbon winner, Custom Alarm is also eligible for the Community Excellence Award, decided by online public voting, taking place now through March 11. To cast your vote for Custom Alarm, visit: and click on the VOTE HERE button. Select “Custom Communications – Rochester, MN” from the pull down menu, complete the form and press SUBMIT.

“Being singled out for this national honor two years in a row clearly indicates that Custom Alarm and CWS, Inc. are doing the right thing in how customers and employees are treated,” says John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. “These national awards are positive proof of the value of having each of them in our community.”

Out of the top 100 Small Businesses named, four came from Minnesota. "Small businesses not only survive in Rochester but thrive as well,” says Gary Smith, president of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. “These businesses combined provide thousands of jobs and contribute their time, talent and resources to help make the Rochester area a great place to live, work and invest. Custom Alarm and CWS, Inc, represent our best of class. Both are significant contributors to our area's quality of life and economic vitality."

All winners will be recognized in America’s Small Business Summit, May 23-25 in Washington, D.C.

About Custom Alarm

Since 1968, Custom Communications, Inc., also known as Custom Alarm, has been providing the best in sales, installation, service and monitoring security and sound systems. This family owned and operated business is located in Rochester, Minnesota where you will find their UL Listed Central Monitoring Station. There are also two branch offices located in Winona and St. Paul, Minnesota.

About CWS, Inc.

Founded in 1998, CWS is the area’s leading integrated agency that delivers web solutions (design and programming); strategy led marketing, communication plans, public relations, video production, graphic design, media placement and social media marketing.

CWS believes in strengthening our communities and puts a high value on our overall corporate social responsibility and involvement. In 2010, alone, CWS has donated more than $25,000 of time, talent and resources to area non-profits and organizations.

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. More information can be found at the U.S. Chamber's Web site.

Building a Better Community: High Standards, Efficiency and Effectiveness are Essential

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, through the support of the Bush Foundation, the Minnesota Chamber, and our Members, funded an extensive study with an eye toward improving effectiveness and efficiency of Rochester’s development and permitting process.

“If we are going to succeed in building the world’s premier destination medical community, then we must have a process that reflects not only the highest quality standards, but the best service model as well,” said John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. “This isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about developing the best model for service in the country.”

Rochester Chamber’s Development Services Re-design Report Leads the Way to Job Creation and Much Improved Business – Government Working Relations

By Glenn S. Dorfman, Common Sense Solutions

After the two days interviewing City development staff, owners, developers, builders, architects, and engineers, it was easy to conclude that there is an obvious and serious disconnect between the service expectations of the Development Community and the mindset of the City development staff.

The business community considers the current plan review and permitting process to be capricious, inflexible, inconsistent, time-consuming, and unnecessarily bureaucratic. The City Development Staff distrust the word of many development community representatives based upon their experience with the lack of follow-through/word-keeping in regard to agreed upon development plans or permit conditions/requirements.

Both groups raised legitimate concerns and both groups need to make changes in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the permitting process to save Rochester taxpayers, homeowners, homebuyers, and businesses (those who always pay the cost of inefficiency) time, money, and inconvenience while still protecting public safety, quality of life, and natural resources.

Over the past ten years, and accelerating since the deep national recession of 2007, an increasing number of jurisdictions, supported by forward looking and thoughtful Business Leaders and Local Government Officials, the construction industry, and building owners, architects, engineers, and others have recognized the importance of streamlining building and land use regulatory systems and have put in place reforms to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The goals have often included the spectrum from increasing economic competitiveness to increasing energy conservation and disaster resiliency. Given the stubbornly high unemployment numbers, reflected in the faces of frustrated unemployed American workers, the goal of improving American economic competitiveness in a rapidly expanding world economy cannot be understated.

Government services re-design is not about regulatory abandonment, but rather it is about spending both government and private sector dollars more prudently. It is not about blame but rather improvement. This puts the Rochester Chamber and the City at the forefront of business government innovation.

An executive summary of the report can be downloaded here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chamber Partners with SCORE to offer Small Business Roundtables

Article by Dean L. Swanson, South East Minnesota Chapter of SCORE

Small business owners are learning that it helps to be able to talk to other owners about issues and learn from each other. This is not a new idea, but there are getting to be more of these groups across the country. In fact, large corporations have used the idea of a “Round Table” or “Think Tank” for several years. The mission statement for one such national group states that they focus on “Helping entrepreneurs to help each other have happier personal lives and more successful businesses. We are there for those who want to be in business for themselves but not just by themselves.”

In general, many of these groups recruit entrepreneurs into membership (there’s usually an annual membership fee). They are placed in a group with about 10 to 30 other entrepreneurs, carefully selected so there are no conflicts of interest among the group members. Each member signs a Confidentiality Contract, promising never to disclose anything that is discussed in a group meeting. Under the guidance of the organizers, the group meets once per month for about three hours to discuss business (and sometimes personal) problems, challenges and opportunities. The whole idea is to allow each member to tap into the collective wisdom and experience of the group to help them prevent mistakes, solve tricky business situations and to maximize their opportunities.

A Business Round Table provides entrepreneurs with an opportunity to discuss with their peers business matters of importance to them. They can bounce ideas off the others, get new ideas about solving old problems and share each other’s experiences in order to help each other become more successful in business.

A newly created Small Business Round Table series launched last month as a joint effort between the South East Minnesota Chapter of SCORE and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and will use the concept of peer interaction and support to assist small business owners in this part of the State to be successful.

A key feature of this endeavor will be the Peer Network which will provide a supportive environment, allow for the building of useful contacts, and a variety of perspectives. The benefits of this will be to help the business owner learn what works, get peer feedback, test your ideas with a supportive group of entrepreneurs, and learn from their successes and experiences, while growing your business network.

Another key component of this new Small Business Round Table will be the useful business topics. Each meeting will feature a different “hot topic”. These will be based on the participants needs, ranging from business plans and structures to marketing and budgets for example. The group will identify the topics for future meetings.

The structure of the Small Business Round Table will be a guided discussion through a facilitated format lead by a SCORE mentor. The sessions will be informal and conversational.
For more information about participating in the new Small Business Round Table or expanding or operating a small business here in Southeast Minnesota, contact SCORE at or 507-282-8960.

How to Effectively Market Your Business

How is your business marketing going? The “Hot Topic” for the next Small Business Round Table, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 26th, will be How to Market Your Business. Are you pleased with your current marketing results? Are you getting more customers? Are your marketing dollars worth it? What is working for you and what isn’t working? Do you need more sales? Are you meeting your sales projections? Do you keep doing what you did last year and expect different results? Is your 2011 marketing plan in place?

Come to the next Small Business Round Table and listen to and discuss your marketing efforts with our Hot Topic presenter, Jacque Hahn of markit, a marketing firm in Southeast Minnesota. For more information or to register, click here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sales Tax Extension Request a Legislative Priorty for 2011 Rochester on Tour at the Capitol

The people of Rochester ask the legislature to authorize the citizens to vote by referendum to CONTINUE THE CURRENT 0.5% City sales and use tax to raise $160 million in principal for improvements that will benefit the City, County, and State. This sales tax has been in effect since 1983. The proposed improvements include:

$26.5 million to State Higher Education Institutions (UMR, RCTC, WSU)

  • $47 million for transportation improvements for highways (City and County) and the
    Rochester International Airport

  • $38 million for economic development

  • $8 million for a regional public safety facility

  • $40.5 million for youthand elder regional and community facilities

Request rationale:
The City, Olmsted County, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, the Higher Education institutions, Mayo Clinic, and many other organizations in the community believe that this extension will make Rochester a better, safer, and economically stronger regional center for this area and the State of Minnesota.

  • REFERENDUMS: Rochester is the largest Minnesota local government to hold a referendum for a local sales tax. If authorized, this will be our 5th sales tax referendum. The last sales tax referendum in 2005 passed with a 72% positive vote. The Legislature is only requested to authorize the referendum vote.

  • COMPARISON TO OTHER CITIES OF THE FIRST CLASS: Rochester will be a City of the First Class in the 2010 census. All of the other cities of the first class have local sales taxes that either do not terminate or will be in place for a long time.

Interested in attending Rochester on Tour at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 2nd? There's still time to register. Click here or call 507-288-1122 no later than Monday, Jan. 31st.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fueling the Future

A grand celebration of Epic FUEL proportions! You're invited! Join us to celebrate Fuel Rochester's accomplishments and share its vision for Fueling the Future. The celebration, scheduled Thursday, Jan. 27th, 2011 from 5-7 p.m. at the Rochester Doubletree hotel, will take place of Fuel Rochester's monthly happy hour event, and will include a short presentation and high quality networking with Rochester community leaders and young professionals. Fuel members receive one free drink; hors d' oeuvres will be served.

5-5:30 p.m. - Presentation
5:30 - 7 p.m. - Networking/Happy Hour/Hors d' oeuvres

Young Professionals Day:
This morning, Mayor Ardell Brede Proclaimed Thursday, Jan. 27th, as Young Professionals day in Rochester! Check out the video here, and don't forget to mark your calendars - 2 weeks from today - for Fueling the Future. See you there!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

High-Speed Passenger Name and Brand Launch

Join the Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance as we launch the name and brand of our high-speed passenger rail initiative that would link Rochester to the Twin Cities. The event, which will feature food, drinks, live music, and more, is on Tuesday, January 18 at 5:15 p.m. at the Rochester Art Center.

The Alliance envisions true high-speed passenger rail service, operating at speeds of 150-220+ mph, getting people where they want to go quickly, efficiently, and safely. Join your friends and neighbors as we share our vision and launch our brand, which will serve as the kickoff to a major public education effort.

The Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance was formed by Olmsted County, City of Rochester, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and Mayo Clinic in 2008. The Alliance promotes rail transportation for Rochester and the surrounding region. The Alliance now has supporters across the region and in the Twin Cities, and boasts thousands of supporters.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Attend next month's Rochester on Tour at the Capitol! Growing Minnesota's Future. Today!

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to bring you the 8th annual Rochester on Tour at the Capitol, Rochester’s largest advocacy and networking event of the year. With a new governor and state legislature, the stakes are higher than ever to make our voice heard. We need to ensure that the Rochester area is well represented and receives fair treatment in the upcoming competitive legislative environment. More than 3,000 business and community leaders have taken advantage of this day to rally, promote Rochester, meet their legislators and enjoy a day full of networking.

Location: Rochester/St. Paul, Minn.
Cost: Lunch, Dinner & Entertainment: $40/person
Transportation: $10/person (free for seniors 62+ and students)
History Center & Supreme Court Tours: Free!
Register (deadline to register: Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011)

"The state is faced with significant fiscal challenges, and how they are dealt with will impact our area," says Julie Fiesel, director of government affairs at the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. "You can make a difference by joining us at the Capitol and voicing your concerns to show our state legislators we care."

Rochester on Tour allows business leaders and community members to show the more than 85 legislators from across the state how important Rochester is to the economic vitality of the state. When attending this event, you have the opportunity to network with legislative, business and community leaders while highlighting many of Rochester’s prominent legislative priorities.

In 2004, the Chamber organized its first Rochester on Tour at the Capitol, drawing just over 200 attendees to fight for Rochester in the approaching legislative session. In the past seven years, this event has grown considerably, and is now widely known among legislators at the Capitol as the largest gathering of its kind. Last year, over 500 business leaders and community members arrived at the Capitol to show more than 85 legislators from across the state how important Rochester is to the economic vitality of the state.

"In addition to showing the state legislature how important our community is to the economic vitality of the state, Rochester on Tour doubles as a premier networking opportunity for the business community," says Kristine Ihrke of Best Western Soldiers Field in Rochester and this year’s Rochester on Tour committee chair. "It’s a great time to meet other community members and interact with a group of concerned citizens."

This year’s tour will again kick off at Galaxy 14 Cine with a breakfast compliments of Hy-Vee and a greeting and send-off from Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede. Attendees then load the buses and the tour begins. The day continues with lunch at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront in downtown St. Paul. Here, newly elected Governor Mark Dayton and our area legislators are invited to say a few words. The fun continues as attendees are then bused to the Capitol Rotunda where Rochester makes its voice heard during a rally which includes music, fun and prizes.

Following the rally, attendees are invited to watch legislature in action, tour the Capitol complex, visit with area legislators and participate in various local issues discussions. New in 2011, a tour of the Supreme Court is available. The tour then moves down the road to the site of our Grand Reception at the National Guard Armory. Here, local businesses and community members continue to promote our city to state legislators while enjoying live music, a taste of Rochester compliments of area restaurants and a small trade show of Rochester area exhibitors. All Minnesota state legislators are invited to attend.

The evening winds down around 7 p.m., with buses arriving back in Rochester at 9 p.m.

Regardless of our viewpoints, we can all be sure of one fact: Whatever happens at the 2011 state of Minnesota legislative session will affect the Rochester area. It’s your city, county, business and home. Be there to have a say in how they will be affected. Whether you know a little or a lot when it comes to government affairs, you’ll find this event worth your while. Please consider joining us. Together we can grow Minnesota’s future, today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Facebook for Business Survey

We had a great response to last week's Facebook for Business event (more than 220 in attendance)! We want to learn more about what you are interested in regards to Facebook for your business. Let us know by answering our Facebook survey below.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Governor Pawlenty Farewell Visit

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce invites you to join us for a farewell visit with Governor Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday, Dec. 14th from 9:30 - 10:15 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Rochester. Refreshments will be provided. While there is no fee for this event, we kindly request that you register in advance.

Doubletree Hotel; 150 S. Broadway
Cost: Free (please register)