Expect Laughs From Chamber Meeting

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — It’s OK to laugh at work.

That will be one of the thrusts from speakers at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting for members from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., tomorrow, in the Welsh Auditorium.

Outgoing chairman Carl Ver Beek will discuss the chamber’s accomplishments over the past year and incoming chairman Jeff Gietzen will address what’s ahead, outlining key initiatives for 2001.

The accent will be on fun when keynote speaker C.W. Metcalf takes the stage to describe how humor can help people not only survive, but also thrive in the workplace. Metcalf is author of the best seller, “Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure.” His seminar, “Humor, Risk & Change,” has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Reader’s Digest, as well as on the Today show and CNN.

Past keynote speakers have addressed post-election issues, technology and work force changes. But this year the chamber wanted something different, said Cheryl Edwards, vice president of operations.

“West Michigan seems to have this culture that doesn’t make it OK for us to have fun at work,” she said. “Studies have shown that people who enjoy work and are allowed to express themselves freely tend to be long-term, productive employees. We did some research and that led us to C.W. Metcalf. He’s very familiar with West Michigan. He tells a very unique story about how he came to be this pseudo expert on work/life balance.”

A key business focus for the chamber in 2001 will be its position on the Institute for Healing Racism, a program the chamber founded to combat racism. This year the organization will build on what it has done to impact learning on the adverse affects of racism in the workplace, Edwards said. Members also will hear about a new chamber program called HomeLink e.a.h., an employer-assisted housing program developed by the chamber and introduced last fall.

“A couple of years ago we told our members about the need to provide affordable housing and that whole idea has come to fruition,” Edwards said. “Another initiative we have is in the area of public policy. This past year we’ve been involved in some local races and in sending the people we considered to be pro-business to Lansing.”

Membership benefits are an ongoing focus and will be one of the central topics of  Gietzen’s address. The chamber promised members a year ago it would come back with bigger and better benefits — and it has, Edwards said. Gietzen will highlight several ideas for new benefits and enhancements to existing benefits this year that are expected to help market the chamber and keep it competitive with like-organizations offering similar benefits.

Through some chamber initiatives and the chamber’s voice in Lansing, the organization was able to get additional state funding for the arts of West Michigan, which received some $1.5 million last year, Edwards noted. She said the chamber hopes to top that figure in 2001.

The annual meeting also will touch on the chamber’s efforts as the business community’s representative in pushing up the schedule for the S-Curve construction to lessen the impact on local business.           

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