Established in 1916, the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce is a business and community resource organization that continuously works to serve and strengthen the Kenosha Area. In 2021, David Strash was named the new president of the Chamber, to replace longtime leader Lou Molitor. Dave recently sat down with The Smart Reader to talk about his role at the Chamber and the upcoming Expo Health & Home Show taking place March 11th and 12th at the UW-Parkside field house.
Can you tell us what the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce is?
We are a non-profit business member organization. We exist to support area businesses by helping them find resources to further their efforts, as well as creating opportunities for our members to network with each other and to bring the general community to them as well.
What makes the Chamber different than KABA, Visit Kenosha or the Lakeshore Business Important District (B.I.D.)?
We are the Chamber for the entire city and county and do the above mentioned things throughout. We don’t provide economic development services, but will find those services for businesses. KABA is one of the economic development groups that we recommend, as well as WWBIC and SBDC. Visit Kenosha is our area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the BID is the Business Improvement District specifically for Downtown Kenosha. We work with and collaborate with those you mentioned as well as many others. That’s part of what makes Kenosha and the business community great!
How has the past 2 years being the President & CEO treated you?
Very well! I am blessed with the best team in the world (Stefanie, Rachel and Mike) and an incredible Board of Directors. Our Ambassador group is second to none and our members are welcoming and all about furthering the Kenosha business community.
What are some of your goals for the Chamber?
Growing our membership!. We currently sit at 720 members and are on the grow! Would love to get to 1,000 by the time I hand the reigns to the next President.
Your ribbon cutting ceremonies are always the talk of the town. How do businesses get involved? Also where do you get those giant scissors?
I inherited the scissors and they are giant and they are sharp!! Not sure where one goes to get a pair. I believe you have to have a “Chamber connection”. We love to celebrate business and ribbon cuttings are, for the most part, centered around a new business opening up. But we also celebrate expansion, moving to a new location, an anniversary, etc… We look for reasons to celebrate Kenosha business.
What can you tell us about your awesome staff at the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce?
They are the dream team!! Mike Mertz is the our longest tenured person and does all of our in house IT, all of our marketing and graphic design. Stefanie Hansen is our Administrative Assistant and she basically keeps it all together. Without her, we are lost. (I am for sure!!) And Rachel Skowronski is our Membership and Events Coordinator. She does a fantastic job and is out and about in the community talking all things Chamber! All first class individuals for sure.
What can people expect at this year’s Kenosha Expo on March 11th & 12th?
Presented by Lynch Chevrolet, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and WLIP AM 1050, they can expect well over 100 exhibitors that are ready to show them the products and services offered by their respective businesses. They will definitely be able to find a good fit for any home improvements they need/want. Attendees will also be able to get free health screenings at the Health Fair, which is sponsored by Aurora Health Care. Cancer Treatment Centers will have “Nolan the Colon” there, which is a replica of the inside of the colon that you can walk through! Selective Hearing will have hearing screenings, and others will offer blood pressure checks in addition to other screenings. Good Value Pharmacy will be administering Covid Shots and boosters at the Health Fair. And of course, our Family Activity area will be full of opportunities for the kids to learn more about what is available for them in the community, as well as have the opportunity to win a new bike just by attending! Thanks go out to the Kenosha Area Noon Optimist Club for sponsoring that area!
What is your favorite part about the Kenosha Expo?
I know this is considered a cop out, but EVERYTHING! Probably still have to go with just seeing business being done. But the families that attend and the seeing them enjoying speaking with the exhibitors and enjoying some food and refreshments, etc., or the Police and Sheriff Dog demonstrations, or being mezmorized by the fantastic train display…. the list just keeps going!
How long in advance do you start preparing for the Kenosha Expo?
It’s a pretty much year round planning. However, it really kicks into high gear with about six months to go. So September/October, we get rolling on the next Expo in earnest. We have a fantastic Expo committee and we will have a “wrap up” meeting about a month after Expo ends, and that actually begins the plans for the next year. We cover any suggestions or complaints and how we might be able to do a better job moving forward. We are always looking at ways to improve the experience for both the exhibitor and the attendee.
What are some of the other events that the chamber puts on during the year?
We have a Business to Business Expo in the fall that centers around our members that don’t sell to the general public, but rather to other businesses. We also have a Golf outing, a charter Fishing outing, Chamber night at the Kingfish, Business After 5 networking events, ribbon cuttings and last year we had our first ever Mini Golf tournament. That event is going to grow and grow!!
How can businesses become a member of the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce?
A prospective new member just needs to fill out an application and pay their annual dues and we get them rolling right away with how to take advantage of membership.
What can you tell us about your Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce Publication that is published annually ?
It is one of our benefits, as each member is listed in there twice. Once by category and then also alphabetically. That publication goes to every member, and we hand them out throughout the year at events like Expo. They are also available at the visitor welcoming center on I-94 as travelers come in from Illinois. A very popular publication with the general public as well which benefits our membership.
Why is the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce important to our great community?
It is a resource for businesses and the community at large. We are here to help the business community continue to be strong and grow. A strong business community equals a strong and thriving community in general.
WEB EXTRA WITH DAVID STRASH
Favorite sports team?
Favorite Pizza place?
Too many awesome places to choose just one.
What was your first car?
First & last concert you’ve seen?
Paul McCartney & Wings and just saw Bruno Mars.
What does Kenosha mean to you?
Everything! Born and raised here. Never leaving!! Best place to be, bar none.
For more info about Expo•23 Health & Home Show visit kenoshaexpo.com
Learn more about the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce at kenoshaareachamber.com
Follow them on Facebook HERE
Learn more about Dave Strash from his appearance on the Ktown Connects Podcast
Apple Podcast • Spotify • Youtube
Interview and photos by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
(This article first appeared in the 2/23/23 issue of the Smart Reader)
Check out the current Go Downtown Kenosha Magazine by picking up a copy or reading it HERE