SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce celebrated its centennial on Thursday, on the same date and time that the organization's founding members first met 100 years ago.
"It's humbling to know that they formed the chamber around two missions — to connect local businesses and to be the voice for the community on civic affairs," said President Todd Shimkus. "We still have those same missions today."
The chamber's gathering at the Hall of Springs included a proclamation presentation by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.
Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matthew Veitch, chairman of the county's Economic Development Committee, presented the proclamation to the organization.
"They've played such a huge role in Saratoga County's economy and we wanted to congratulate them," he said. "They're an institution in the county."
Veitch said he hopes the organization continues to thrive.
"I hope they stay successful and continue to advocate for their members, and push for better economic development in the county," he said.
Shimkus said the organization is committed to expanding the economy, making the city and county more vibrant, protecting the springs, and making Saratoga Springs an educational and health destination.
This summer, the chamber is collaborating with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) to host Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Friday on June 22 to kick off the SPAC Jazz Fest weekend June 23-24, and Call to Post on July 19, and event the day before the Saratoga Race Course opens for the season.
"We wanted to add another day before big events to get more people to come to the city earlier," Shimkus said. "We want them to explore the community."
Shimkus said the chamber will continue to engage in more partnerships with community organizations.
"We won't be successful without collaborations," he said.
Brian Straughter, chairman of the chamber Board of Directors and president of Turf Hotels, said the organization provides an invaluable service to its members.
"The biggest thing a small business can do is join the chamber to network," he said. "It creates opportunities for businesses."
The chamber, Straughter said, is focused on how to attract people to Saratoga Springs outside of the track season.
He said actions made by the chamber to accomplish that goal included the organization taking over the 2018 Saratoga County Restaurant Week, which ran from March 8-16.
Marianne Barker, owner of Impressions of Saratoga, has been a member of the chamber for nearly 40 years.
"They're always out in front of issues and it helps us as business owners to learn about the issues that impact us," she said, citing issues such as parking, wages and insurance. "We don't always have time to be aware of everything and they do a really good job at letting us know."
The biggest member benefit for Barker is networking with other business owners.
"It's nice getting to know everyone and being able to help them or call them when I need something," she said. "When I need something like advertising or carpentry work, I open up the member's book and find someone who can help."
Barker said it's amazing to celebrate the chamber's 100th anniversary.
"It's quite an accomplishment," she said. "It also speaks volumes that it's still here flourishing."