Chesterton Tribune

Happy birthday Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce

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The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 50th birthday. Throughout its first fifty years the Chamber has been spearheaded by community minded business and professional people who care about the future of our community and are willing to spend their time and money to do something about it.

Admittedly there have been a few low points:

—An executive director skipped town with Chamber funds.

—One year the Wizard of Oz Festival lost so much money that members were asked to dig into their pockets to pay the debts.

—And of course, there was that string of embarassing political stands: Opposition to the Westchester Library system; opposition to the Indiana Dunes National Lakehsore; opposition to the Duneland School Corporation, etc., etc. (See related stories today and tomorrow.)

But there also have been a lot of high points:

—Executive Director Joe Galvin, who reenergized the Chamber in the ’70s and founded the Festival of the Dunes to bolster community identity and encourage restoration of the historic downtown;

—The rescue of the Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival when it was in danger of self-destruction;

—Executive Director Ross Amundson, who sought to build bridges between business and residents by promoting a broader vision featuring quality of life issues including Indiana 49 safety, a reliable water supply, construction of the new high school and support for expansion of the National Lakeshore;

—Executive Director Laurie Franke-Polz who helped launch the Chamber’s anti-drug efforts which acted as a catalyst to wake up the county on the heroin problem;

And most recently, current Executive Director Bonnie Trout has spearheaded the European Market, Summer Fest and this Saturday’s Party in the Park, all of which bring people together downtown while allowing local businesses, artisans and restaurants to showcase themselves.

In 2005 the community faces new challenges.

Rapid growth has strained the fabric of our community. We face urban problems with rural forms of government. Our political landscape remains divided between the four towns whose zoning patterns often conflict and whose bickering hinders community spirit and economic progress.

The steel industry is no longer the growth engine it once was. The future is in the high tech, transportation and visitor industries. To compete in the 21st Century communities need more than roads and utilities. They need drug-free schools, urgent care centers, child care centers, pre-schools and elder care programs. They need mass transportation, sidewalks, youth sports leagues with plenty of ballfields and soccer fields, bike trails and nature preserves. They need adult education, community concerts, live theater and art events.

Communities successful in developing all of the above will enjoy higher property values and be attractive places to live, work and raise children.

The Chamber, through its legislative work and many, many volunteers, has the potential to stand-in for the united municipal government we need —and don’t have— to improve the quality of life and the business climate.

Businesspeople and residents, who want to build our community should be part of the Chamber’s next 50 years. Simply phone 926-5513 and join up.


Posted 8/25/2005