No, 2008 wasn’t the easiest year for the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, but perhaps that’s been a blessing in disguise.

No, 2008 wasn’t the easiest year for the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, but perhaps that’s been a blessing in disguise.

But Kyle Jones, incoming chairman for the chamber board of directors, looks at those difficulties and challenges as a way to recreate the organization that has helped him and his business throughout the years.

“It’s been a challenge these past six months,” Jones said. “But I think – no, I know – the difficulties are behind us.”

Jones is referring to the ongoing police investigation of former Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Whisler, who resigned last August. Shortly after her resignation, several financial irregularities were discovered. The matter was turned over to local police, who continue to investigate.

“I don’t know if that hurt us – it surprised us absolutely, inside and out, but it’s also opened some doors for us,” he said.

Jones said the incident has given chamber officials a long overdue opportunity to restructure and reorganize. In some ways, 2009 started in 2008 for the chamber.

“It’s given us a chance to revamp everything from by-laws to job descriptions,” he said, referring first to the obvious: the position once referred to as president.

“We were encouraged to change that to executive director,” he said.

And on that front, after sorting through numerous applications and beginning interviews, two finalists remain for the post. Jones said he expects the new director to be named in February.

“We had a lot of inquiries for the position,” he said. “People here in the chamber took one day and interviewed about seven people. Now we have it down to two.”

When the executive director assumes control, he/she will find a different organization. The individual will work closer with both the treasurer and a newly formed oversight committee, which expects to meet monthly to go over figures and finances. Other changes, implemented last fall, include dual signatures on checks.

“Every process was looked at, and (the new person) can expect that to be a routine,” Jones said. “We realized how crucial that is to a smoother operation.”

Many of the goals set for 2009 remain the same as in the past, including membership retention, boosting marketing efforts and its business outreach program.

The chamber has about 378 active members, a figure that has been decreasing slightly over the years, Jones said. That’s been in part because of prior leadership at the administrative level, as well as ongoing economic difficulties across the country.

Certainly the recession hasn’t made things easier.

“A city our size should have over 400 members in its chamber,” he said. “We need to get the numbers up in spite of what’s going on here and throughout the country.”

A general manager for MarKirk Construction, Jones said services offered by the chamber are invaluable for businesses – not only as a way to advertise but to network. The organization offers a monthly luncheon meeting for regular members and new membership showcases.

Another goal for 2009 is necessary, Jones said, but it’s certainly the most challenging: that of repairing the chamber office. Jones said the building suffers consistent roof issues.

“We got bids recently and we realized we were facing $10,000 in repairs,” he said. “That’s a lot, but it needs to be done.”

Ideally, the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce would like a new building, much like city leaders have proposed a new City Hall for themselves in the downtown area.

“We know that’s something leaders have been talking about,” he said, “and we’d like to be a part of that as much as we can.”