Jason Camis
Chamber President
Guest Columnist
Did you know that in September 1975 – a few months after I was born – a group of business leaders in Gardner got together and formed an organization to “advance the economic, industrial, professional, cultural and civic welfare of Gardner and the surrounding area”? What was born in the United States some 200 years prior, had finally made its way to the area that you and I now work or call home – the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce had begun.
Chambers of commerce took on many roles throughout our nation’s history, but in short they have all been dedicated to bringing businesses together to accomplish more than each could do on its own. And while some chambers have struggled at times, they are still as relevant as ever.
My name is Jason E Camis and I am the new President & CEO of the Chamber. I’ve now been on the job for just over a month, meeting with members and businesses and digging through the office throughout the holidays. While I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting a fraction of the community, I love the enthusiasm I’ve encountered and am up for the challenge of rebuilding this organization to what the business community deserves – a 21st century chamber of commerce.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you a lot of information – from the history of chambers to where they might be headed in the future. Some of you may be thinking – “who cares about the chamber”or “these organizations seem irrelevant now”. To you I offer this – long before there was Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any other social network there were chambers of commerce. As an organization, chambers were the original social network in each community, touching every part of daily life. They operated as a hub of information and knowledge and accomplished things by bringing people together. I believe OUR chamber of commerce, serving Gardner, Edgerton, and the surrounding area, will become relevant and valued once again. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t be easy. And it won’t look like your grandpa’s chamber of commerce.
Undoubtedly you are curious as to who I am and what brought me here. I hail from Detroit, Michigan and have called Kansas home for the past 10-plus years. I have a master’s degree in parks, recreation, tourism& urban studies from Michigan State University. With my wife and daughters, I live outside of Ottawa, Kan., where I try to dabble in farming when I have time. I love sports and all things food-related.
As for my professional background, I have 15 years of experience working with non-profit organizations, including two stints with chambers of commerce, most recently the Paola Chamber of Commerce. I’ve owned and operated my own business, a coffeehouse and cafe, where I learned firsthand the challenges that today’s business owners face. I’ve also worked for larger corporate entities like Red Lobster and cutting-edge smaller ones like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. Overall, I like to believe it’s a well-rounded background that helps me better understand the various businesses I serve each and every day.
I have a lot of goals for the chamber. They range from being THE resource for businesses in our community, to being a model for innovation, change, and flexibility. We’re going to be accountable – to our members, the cities of Gardner and Edgerton, and the community as a whole. We’re going to sing the praises of the place that we work or call home, because doing so will hopefully lead others to do the same. The list goes on. And in the end, we’ll accomplish exactly what those business leaders set out to do in 1975.
I look forward to what the future holds for the Chamber and the community. I encourage you to call me at (913)856-6464 or email me at [email protected] anytime.
Together we’re better.
Jason Camis is the president of the Southwest Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.