Businesses and organizations from across Northwest Indiana gathered at the Porter County Expo Center this week to take part in this year’s Porter County Chamber Coalition Network Night. The Duneland, Portage and Valparaiso Chambers of Commerce hold the event every year as a way to connect and strengthen the business community that keeps the Region thriving year after year.
“This is huge for the Portage Chamber and it’s huge for all the businesses here tonight,” said Nancy Simpson, Executive Director of the Portage Chamber. “To have so many companies here under one roof makes connecting with other businesses and organizations so much easier than getting out there and pounding the pavement.”
This year’s Chamber Network Night brought together over 140 businesses, organizations and not-for-profits that used the opportunity to introduce themselves to, and get to know, the communities that they serve.
Duneland Chamber President, Maura Durham, echoed Simpson’s sentiments in saying, “This event is so important to us for the partnerships and the camaraderie from pulling the three Chambers together. In this day in age, it’s our Chamber’s initiative to work closer with all of our partners, whether that be Chambers of Commerce, towns or workforce developers.”
Here’s what some Porter County and surrounding businesses and organizations had to say about this year’s Chamber Network Night:
“One of the best opportunities for Porter at the Networking Night is to really help the community understand the new and different services that we have, and also about our commitment to the business community,” said Stacey Kellogg from Porter Regional Hospital.
Karin Woodside from St. Mary Medical Center said, “It helps us get out into the community and let people in Porter County know that we are here, that we have a Valparaiso facility and two Portage facilities, and that we have a partnership with the Valpo and Portage YMCA. It’s a way to show people that there’s great care here and available to them!”
“It’s great exposure for us, being a Valparaiso-based company, to connect with the surrounding Chambers that join together for this each and every year,” said Rich Shields from Chester, Inc.
1st Source Bank’s Shannon Franko said, “I think it’s about not only representing the bank, but also being here to support our clients, many of whom we work with in the community. It’s a great way to network and support each other!”
“We’re always trying to break down the stigma of mental health and when we come to events like Chamber Network Night we’re able to talk about things like ‘self care reminders’ and taking a timeout for yourself. That’s one of the biggest things about good mental health, taking time for yourself and that’s what we’re focusing on here today,” said Jessica McFadden, Foundation Coordinator with Porter-Starke Services, Inc.
Ellen Sharpe from Franciscan Health said, “At Franciscan, we always want to get out into the communities that we serve. And now that we are building a new hospital in Michigan City, we feel that it’s going to be very accessible for Porter County with all the latest technology, so we’d like to get out and spread that word.”
“It’s great for networking and it gives us a chance to meet and greet with the public, whether it’s a new or existing customer. It gives a good idea of what we’re capable of by using our imaginations and talents that we have on staff,” said Tom Steindler Jr. of Steindler Signs.
“These events are great and it gives us a chance to meet new clients and other businesses,” said Louie Sustaita from BucherTech.
Candace Arvin from Jacob’s Ladder said, “We’ve done this Networking Night for the last four years and it’s always a great chance to meet community leaders. As a non-profit organization, we rely on the philanthropic support of individual donors and our business community. So, it’s a great chance to meet people whose philanthropic values align with ours.”
“Our company is based on business to business contact and we’re hoping this event, which is focused on business people meeting other business people, will expose us to more potential leads,” said Erica Dombey from the Regional Development Company.
“This helps us because there’s a heavy concentration of business to business networking that goes on and that’s paramount to how we operate. We try to develop potential clients, but it’s about having fun too,” said Kramer & Leonard’s Bill Vendramin.
James Tudor from Tudor Cleaning and Restoration said, “The biggest thing is that you see people that you’ve known for years and it gives you a chance to re-introduce yourself. It also gives you some insight into new things that companies have going on.”
“Face to face communication is the number one thing and it’s a world of difference from talking to someone over the phone,” said Buck Hatfield from One Guy With Tools.
Natalie Reisen of Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso said, “It’s a lot of fun! It helps us stay connected to other businesses in town and to let other businesses know what our services are.”
“I like participating in events like this because we are a not for profit organization and Valparaiso has been very generous towards us as far as donating and promoting the services that we provide,” said Laura Degroff from Visiting Nurse Association. “We’re also blessed in the fact that we have over 400 volunteers from this, and the surrounding community that give us their time.”
“This is a good way to meet a ton of people in one area,” said Jenn Brown from Lakeside Wealth Management. “I bring my entire team and it gives us a chance to meet everyone.”
Dawn Vamos from Extra Mile Fitness said, “Customers don’t necessarily know who we are, so here we’re able to get the word out and explain what our business is all about!”
“I would say that networking events like this provide us with a chance to get to know the business community and the community as a whole as well and tell them about all the great things that credit unions can offer to customers,” said Analisa Warring from REGIONAL Federal Credit Union.
Sheila Mullins from Symphony of Chesterton said, “It’s a great way for Symphony of Chesterton to network and we’re relatively new to Porter County so it’s great to get out and meet the business community.”
“This definitely helps us with visibility in the community because it gives us the opportunity to remind people that Valparaiso University has a graduate school, and that we’re not only and under-graduate university,” said Jessica Choquette, Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions at V.U. Graduate School.
Cathy Horning, Sales Manager at Blue Chip Casino said, “We’re here to network with other businesses that are not in our direct community, but are still close enough. And a lot of our events will draw from all over Northwest Indiana and this is a great meeting point in the middle.”
“The YMCA is the 2nd largest not for profit behind the Salvation Army and people are not always aware of the things that we provide the community. This gives us that face-to-face contact and the opportunity to explain all that we do and have going on at the Y,” said the Valparaiso YMCA’s Carol Douglas.
“It’s about growth in the community and being a participant in what’s going on!” said Maureen Petro-Riffel from First Trust Credit Union.
Horizon Bank’s Marty Hickey commented, “It’s a way to connect with people in the business community and reconnect with people that you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s also a great way to learn and grow!”
“A big mission we have with Chicago Street Theatre is connecting with the community, and a lot of what we do is about supporting the local business community, because that’s the community that supports us,” said Eric Brandt from the Chicago Street Theatre.
“The biggest part of an event like this is the exposure,” said Kelly Dooley from Avalon Springs Health Campus. “We’re trying to network with other business to let them know that we’re a resource. Mostly this is business to business networking and so a lot of times we’re all supporting each other.”
Gavin Bristol from NITCO said, “The Chamber Network Night is my favorite event out of all of the events that we do throughout the year. It helps me reach other businesses rather than some other events that are geared towards other areas. To have everybody here with a lot of our customers is great!”
“This helps us get some exposure to the wide customer base. We learn what customers are needing from us, what is the customer's current experience, and what can we do better for our customers,” said Frontier Communications’ Charles Vander Stelt.
“We normally will add at least three new clients because of events like these,” said JM2 Webdesigners’ John Marx.