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story.lead_photo.caption Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the Callaway Chamber of Commerce, participates in the Fulton Christmas Parade. Photo by Jenny Gray / Fulton Sun.

The Callaway Chamber of Commerce is excited to ring in 2018, but we don't want to overlook the great success from 2017. The year was filled with great opportunities for our business leaders to network and market their businesses, but we were also focused on strengthening the community.

Ending the year, we welcomed 42 new members, hosted 20 ribbon cuttings, 11 Business Breakfasts, 11 Business After Hours events, 10 Coffee and CREAM (partnered with the Missouri Women's Business Center), eight educational classes with an emphasis on "Prep for Pitch," an annual banquet, Business EXPO/Job Fair, golf tournament, college/ and career fair (partnered with the Fulton School District), new teachers breakfast, Town and Country event, National Manufacturing Day and a Pitch competition. We launched the Callaway Women's Networking Group, Workforce Task Force, business tours for educators, held Leadership Callaway, while continuing to focus on economic development.

In February, we had the opportunity to welcome the Missouri Job Center to our county, a great partnership for the chamber and the business community. They work daily with potential employees, assisting them to get ready to enter the workforce in Callaway County.

In October, Callaway County was recognized by the state of Missouri as a "Work Ready Community." This would not have been possible without the dedicated work by the county, cities, chamber, job center, supporting businesses and the school districts. Callaway County is now one of the 41 recognized communities in the state, which has been determined to be vital to the workforce readiness and economic development goals of the state.

The chamber staff and board of directors appreciate the support we have received from the business community, cities, county, and at the state level this year. Without the continuous support this would not have been possible.

It was a fantastic year and we are striving to get better, preparing for 2018.

The chamber staff is working diligently on the event schedule for the new year. This year, I would like to challenge our membership to do two things. Attend or participate in at least one of our larger events such as the annual banquet, business EXPO and job fair, golf tournament or Town and Country. Then mark your calendar to attend one of our networking events, Business Breakfast or Business After Hours. Our members not only network at these events, but make business to business connections.

In support of small business, the chamber has partnered with the Missouri Federation to offer a healthcare option for small businesses. At 8:30 a.m. Jan. 18, we will host an informational meeting at the chamber offices about this insurance plan. A small business is defined as any business that has 50 employees or less. These insurance plans are only offered to our members, so please feel free to invite a potential member as your guest to attend this informational meeting.

Don't forget to mark your calendar to attend the 2018 annual Banquet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25th at 54 Country. Attending the annual banquet is a good way to network, see the chamber year-in-review, celebrate our award winners for Chamber Leadership, Allen Conner Youth Award, J.H. Atkinson Award, and Loyal Subject Award, while enjoying some great food, conversation and fun. We hope to see you there.

On behalf of the Callaway Chamber board of directors and staff, thank you for assisting us in making 2017 successful. With the help of our members, cities, and county in the new year, we will continue our vision of "Building community for business and family."

Happy New Year!