By MARK KILMER
For the Express

The year 2015 has proven to be a truly transformational time for the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, and looking forward to 2016, you’ll find that your Chamber will continue to find ways to reinvent itself.
This past year has yielded many new programs and partnerships for us which have, and will continue to have, a positive impact on our region’s economic and social environment. I will detail here just a few of the most notable.
First, for the first time in many years, the Chamber has again taken on the important task of the administration of the Montgomery County tourism program. I am very proud to say that every goal set forth for 2015 for the program which was year one of our administration, was met within eight months. And, I am happy to say that this great relationship with Montgomery County will continue through 2016. I should also add that this has been the first time ever that both the Fulton County tourism program and the Montgomery County tourism program have been administered by one office. I can’t help but to believe that this model, in time, can find ways to further partner and connect the wonderful tourism assets that both counties have to offer, and encourage more “day trippers” to become two and three day travelers to our region.
Next is the partnership the Chamber has forged with HFM PTECH, Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Pathways in Technology Early College High School, located in Johnstown. Starting in January of last year, the Chamber, as part of this partnership, became the administrator of the PTECH mentoring program, which connects businesses and students. By devoting staff and Chamber resources, this partnership has proven so valuable that our role will be expanded when the second PTECH, the HFM AG PTECH, will become a reality in our region for the 2016-2017 academic year. This new PTECH will emphasize agricultural science, engineering, business and sustainability, along with environmental science, fisheries, and wildlife technology and will be located in Montgomery County, initially at Fort Plain High School. I am proud to say that we are one of a very few chambers of commerce nationwide that have developed this great collaboration that is helping to establish the educational system of the future.
Next, recognizing the need of engaging the young professional people in our region, the Chamber launched a new group, the Fulton Montgomery Young Professionals Network (FMYPN). With three events already under their belt, and a lot of enthusiasm over the last four months it has been in existence, this group is on the fast track to become a vital part of the Chamber, and of the region.
Also over the past 12 months, the Chamber, for the first time, created and printed our annual quality-of-life magazine, “Focus Fulton Montgomery NY Region” in partnership with LOCAL businesses who wrote the stories, and produced the beautiful piece that we use to market all of our region’s assets. Destination One, the displays that are on the outside of the Fulton County Visitor’s Center in Vail Mills, was designed and built by Chamber member Herrl Woodcraft and features a number of Chamber member businesses who supported the project, where brochures and information about Fulton County tourism can be accessed by visitors 24/7/365. Prior to 2015, this project was built and advertising sold by a business outside of New York State. Both Focus magazine and Destination One have resulted in the quality of these projects going up, while costs to our Chamber members who use these resources have gone down.
These great new initiatives, along with all of the other services and programs that we provide to our members, will continue to be scrutinized and polished by the team at the Chamber to assure that our members’ investment in their Chamber continues to provide them value.
I want to thank all of our members who volunteer their time on committees or in other service to the organization; their work is truly appreciated. I also want to thank the many businesses who help the Chamber through generous sponsorships, advertising, and other forms of support, without which it would be difficult to accomplish our mission. I also want to thank the Chamber staff for going above and beyond in doing their part in achieving the successes of the past year with professionalism, hard work, and dedication to the organization’s mission.
But most of all, it’s the business membership, the lifeblood of the Chamber, that makes everything possible. Without your support and faith in us, our program of work would not be achievable. To all of you, from all of us at the Chamber, many thanks and best wishes for a successful and prosperous 2016.