Warsaw leaders seek to revamp Chamber of Commerce to boost economic growth

WARSAW, Illinois (WGEM) – In an effort to promote economic development in Warsaw, Illinois, leaders are seeking to revamp their chamber of commerce.

Hancock County’s Executive Director of Economic Development, Samantha Harnack, said the city’s chamber has been dormant for decades.

She said that without a chamber, entrepreneurs lack certain resources and put the region in a less than optimal position for growth.

“Growth without planning and organization can be a bit much, and I think with a chamber it’s really going to guide that growth towards what they’re looking for,” Harnack said.

Carthage and Nauvoo both have chambers of commerce. Harnack said one in Warsaw would help growth across the county.

“As tourists come for historic sites in Nauvoo, this would be a great place for them, and as they are [county chambers] connecting it can only help every community grow,” said Harnack.

Harnack said the chamber could potentially be funded by an existing account from when the chamber was initially active.

Alderman of Warsaw 1st District, Tyler McLaughlin, said more businesses will attract more people to see what Warsaw has to offer.

McLaughlin hopes economic growth will lead to more customers at the city’s sandbar.

“It’s two football fields long, you can walk until there’s water above your head and it’s just sand and it’s not what people in Mississippi think of is a vacation spot,” McLaughlin said.

Cassandra Grunewald, owner of RePete Candle and Coffee Bar, opened her shop just eight weeks ago.

Grunewald said she was slightly apprehensive about becoming an entrepreneur, but was glad she took the risk.

“As a business owner you have to be prepared to take risks, and as a longtime resident of Warsaw I knew in my heart that this was where I wanted to be,” Grunewald said. .

Grunewald is also a part-time business teacher at Warsaw High School.

As part of the program, she takes students to businesses in the area to talk with the owners. Grunewald learned from an entrepreneur that 75% of his business came from out of town.

Grunewald said a new chamber could help direct city dwellers more to local businesses.

“It immediately struck me as an opportunity that was missed by us as other business owners in the city, so we have all this traffic going through the city and no one is taking advantage of it,” Grunewald said. .

Leaders are looking to build or move into a facility on Maine Street. They expect Warsaw to have a functioning chamber by the end of the year.

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