The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce won Chamber of the Year at the state level in the mid-size city category, said April Wehrs, president and chief executive officer of the organization.
“We won Chamber of the Year in 2012 for the small city category, so we feel this is a validation of the work we’ve done to help our parish grow,” she said.
They’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work on the state, local and federal levels, she said, particularly with taxation issues, including work on a fire district millage renewal in Holden and work to fund a health unit.
The chamber also started a Leadership Livingston program that has helped the business community see how all the components, including education, policing, fire protection and health care fit together to make them stronger, she said.
Part of that work has been helping businesses with resources to strengthen their Web-based marketing.
“We are constantly doing research on our businesses to see where they show up in search engines,” Wehrs said.
Search engine optimization does a lot to fuel local shopping, she said, and the chamber stays on top of the best and most up-to-date software options for its member businesses.
“We want to make sure that when someone in Livingston Parish is looking for a business, local businesses that meet their needs show up first,” she said.
The chamber is also proud of its Business and Community Expo, which has grown to be one of the largest business expos in the region in just four years, she said.
“The jobs fair brings the community in and matches our skilled workforce with businesses who want to fill those jobs,” she said.
What started off as an 80-vendor fair — which was surprisingly good participation, Wehrs said — grew to 125 vendors the next year and is at capacity every year.
“We had to back off a little last year because parking became an issue,” she said.
It just shows how big a need there was for such an event, Wehrs said.
The chamber expanded and renovated a building at 248 Veterans Blvd., which they moved into in March, Wehrs said, giving them more room.
“Before, we were operating out of a great place, rent-free, but had to have our meetings outside the building, and now we have the space to meet in-house,” she said.