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Creating a Community of Business Supporting Business

Fremont, NE


[Intro] Welcome to chats with chambers with your hosts Patrick Kirby and Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each week we connect and learn from executives of chambers of commerce from across the country. These short episodes will share success stories, challenges, best practices, and tips and tricks to inspire you, and provide resources for hitting your organizational goals. From recruiting new and retaining current members to finding new and creative revenue sources. You’ll hear straight from those leading chambers and communities throughout the US. Chats with chambers is proudly brought to you by the Nonprofit bootcamp. Learn more and check out the show notes for episodes at 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, thank you for joining me for another episode of chats with chambers. I’m here today with Tara Lea from the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce. Tara, thanks for joining us today.

[Tara Lea] Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me today. See me excited for this next couple of minutes. Yeah, it’s

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] gonna be fun. So before we kind of kick this off, why don’t you share with people a little bit about Fremont, Nebraska, kind of what makes you all special? And what are you best known for?

[Tara Lea] You know, what’s really exciting to be from the best city in the entire world. So thank you for letting me talk more about it. As you mentioned, Fremont, Nebraska, in the hearts of the Midwest, loving every minute of being here. And we have a couple of things that make us special number one, if you buy a rotisserie chicken from Costco, anywhere west of the Mississippi River, it was harvested right here in Fremont, USA. So we have a whole lot of chickens going through our community. And also, it’s just a special town about 25,000. So it’s a relatively small town. But we’re really close to Omaha, just 25 miles away from Omaha, and just 15 miles away from Lincoln. So in a great location to be by some of the biggest cities in Nebraska, and we’re really lucky to take advantage of that day in day out. So we’ve got the big city close by but our lovely small town community right here in Fremont. Love that.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So what is what is the business kind of what’s the industry look like in Fremont outside of all the amazing rotisserie chickens right now I’m ready for lunch.

[Tara Lea] So we’re really blessed in Fremont to have a diverse business economy. We’ve got our, our plants, you know, our manufacturing plants and things like that. But we also have a lot of new industry coming to town, kind of more in the technology field. We have some traveling nursing agencies coming they do the staffing for traveling nurses and things like that. We’ve got two big medical firms that do that in town right now. So just a wide variety. So we got the blue collar work, we’re adding some of those higher paying or tech jobs and just continuing to grow. Obviously, our local hospital had a lot of employees. Our school system has a lot of employees. And we’re blessed to have a small university here in Fremont as well. So Midland University has 33 athletic sports and a school of just 1600 kids. So it’s pretty cool to see all the almost everyone that comes here to Fremont to Midland University plays some kind of athletic events or athletic sport.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That’s super cool. That’s a lot of sports. It is. I love that. Well, Tara, tell us like, in your time, as you’ve been with the Fremont chamber, kind of what is one thing that you’re super proud of that you all have been able to accomplish together? You know, so I’ve been here

[Tara Lea] at the Fremont chamber for about six years. And seriously, there are so many things, it’s hard to really narrow it down to just one but I would say, in 2019, the Fremont community had a terrible flood. So we’re kind of surrounded by a bunch of rivers and all those rivers decided it was a great time to come out our banks. And there was no way in or out of Fremont, we were literally an island like all around us, it was just water for about two days. And it was unbelievable to see and the chamber, you know, help help with the cause we obviously were not the only one leaving the frontier. But it was great to see the entire community come together and help each other out whether it was food needs, water needs a place to stay whatever it was, the entire business community really came together to help out those people who were in the flooded areas or needed, you know, a private jet or something to get food in or out or whatever it needed to happen. The business community really rallied together and it took care of our community and it was just an awesome thing to be part of obviously a horrible thing to go through. But amazing to see everybody pull together and work really hard

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] to move forward. Well and what is like that happening in 2019 and then COVID, hitting in 2020 did that kind of like all pull through, like did that kind of build then as your as your businesses kind of supported each other? It really did it just moved

[Tara Lea] right into the pandemic and then even now, post pandemic and everything, it’s still great to see how well you know, people who are enemies before are working so great together. Now, you know, they used to compete for employees or you know, business in general, and now they’re all working together to take care of each other and make sure rebound stronger because it’s obviously stronger together. So that’s awesome to be part of

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] it. I love that. I mean, it’s unfortunate that disastrous events have to be the thing that kind of pulls people together. But it’s great that that can be the thing that kind of comes out afterwards and then continues to build over time. For the overall just growth and support in the area.

[Tara Lea] Absolutely. It’s awesome to be part of, and honestly, pre flood, the relationship wasn’t great. When I started my job, the relationship between the city and the economic development and some of the nonprofits wasn’t super tight. So that brought us all together, and that relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. So it’s really fun to be part of that, too.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. Well, so then from kind of from that statement, everybody has their struggles, everybody has things, you know, growing pains that we need to work on and work through. So what is one thing that is kind of a challenge for the chamber or the Fremont area? And how are you kind of working through and prove and working on solutions for

[Tara Lea] that? Yeah, assuming we don’t have any challenges here? Nope. It’s a little slice of heaven.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] You did start this off by saying are the best city in the country right.

[Tara Lea] Now, I wish that was true, honestly, I’m sure you’ve heard this with other team professionals. But right now, it’s still reinforced. Yeah, we are, are trying so hard to get enough people. And we are again, blessed by where we were located. Because then you can try to steal folks from Omaha, or from Lincoln and get them to come work here in Fremont. But it’s definitely got a lot of open positions, a lot of great open positions. And it’s finding the right people to fill those openings, that that’s a challenge. And it’s getting better, which is fantastic. But it’s still not where we need to be. And it’s obviously we can’t do as much business as we’d like to do, because we don’t have the employees that we need to

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] make that happen. So kind of our businesses, could you talk a little bit about like the collaboration and how everybody’s kind of working together. So our businesses now working together to say like, Hey, this person wasn’t the right fit, wasn’t the right fit for us, but like might be a good fit for you like, Are you kind of sharing some of those resources?

[Tara Lea] Honestly, that has happened. And it’s awesome to see, because, again, five years ago that never ever would have happened in our community. But it’s definitely happening now happening now. And it’s fun. We’re working on some campaigns to try to advertise to the local communities to get them to work in Fremont. And all those businesses are coming together. It’s not just them using their advertising dollars to advertise their position. They want to advertise Fremont in general, and all the great jobs open in Fremont. So that’s wonderful to see them work together on that front

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] as well. Yeah, because I think in smaller communities, if you are bringing people if one person or one company can bring in a handful of people, then that doesn’t just support that business, it supports then, right, the restaurants and the grocery stores, and the boots, and all of that good stuff. So I think that’s beautiful that you all are working together on that. It’s awesome. So fun to be part of. Yeah. Okay. So what is kind of one lesson that maybe you’ve learned, because six years in the same chamber, that’s, you know, a long time

[Tara Lea] i That doesn’t happen very often. Amazing. I was in a different chamber for years for that. So I have a decade and the Chamber world. So I’m pretty much like a unicorn,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] ya know, I love that. That’s so great. So what is kind of one thing that maybe you learned either trial by fire or just something that maybe you made a mistake on, or something that you’ve kind of grown from that you’re, you would love to impart on some of the newer chamber leaders that might be out there growing up in this business? Yeah.

[Tara Lea] So I think the hardest thing coming into the industry is when people drop their chamber membership, but they don’t really have a reason why they’re like, Yep, I just don’t want it this year. And I would take those personally, every single one of them like, what did I do? I thought I was, you know, I went to talk to them, it was so great, we did this and that, and you can’t worry about that. I mean, they’re those business owners have so many things on their plate, and so many things that they’re worried about, and maybe it was a bad year, and they the chamber membership is just something they can’t afford this year. And then how do you work with them? If you can find that out? You know, is there a way to offer them something where they can maybe have a year free? Or discount? Or could we find another business to sponsor them? So just little things like that, obviously, number one, don’t take it to heart because there’s something much deeper than anything that you’ve ever done at that business? And then how can we help them grow? Maybe, maybe there’s not that need? Maybe they just really aren’t interested? But if they are, how can you keep them involved and keep them part of the business? Chamber community here in Fremont?

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] How do you find that balance then with like, not catering to the one and still catering to the many, but like, also, knowing that you’re there to support local business? Yeah,

[Tara Lea] I think that’s always a challenge as well. You never want to make somebody angry because you’re helping this bank and not that bank. And that’s a fine line to walk as well. But I think, you know, a majority of the chambers are our mid just small chambers. So they can have that personal touch with a lot of people. You know, we have 600 members and every month chamber, which is a lot, we’re really lucky to be super connected to most of them. So, you know, you just have to feel them out and read when it’s best. And again, you’re right, walk a fine line and I really didn’t answer your question at all, but be careful.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Because it’s not it’s I think what you’re saying is it’s about building If you have quality relationships with your members than understanding why they have to leave makes it easier to figure out what adjustments may need to happen in the chamber or what adjustments need to happen for that business. Because you have that relationship. It’s not just like somebody who’s come and gone, and you’re like, Okay, well, I don’t have I don’t know anything about them.

[Tara Lea] You made that sound much more eloquent than so thank you.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, no, I think it’s, it’s one of the things that has come up a lot in these interviews is listening and taking in what other people are saying. And I think it’s really interesting when you repeat things back, how is it like, did I actually hear what you say? Or did I like, make something up in my own head? And you’re like, Wait, that wasn’t where I was going. So I’m glad to hear that I repeated it back.

[Tara Lea] It’s beautiful. You’re better than I did.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] No, it’s all good. Okay, so Fremont is great. If people are listening to this, and they’re, you know, in the area, let’s say they’re in like that Lincoln, Omaha middle area. They want to know more about your chamber, or they’re interested in knowing more about the businesses for potential work in your area. How do they find out more information?

[Tara Lea] Sure, they can always go to our website. It’s Fremont and Obviously, we have a business directory there like many other chambers do, and they can kind of search they’re looking for we are in the heart of historic downtown Fremont. So if they are in the area, please, please stop by and visit us. We love hearing from their chamber folks, or just people visiting in general and telling them all the wonderful, amazing things they can do right here in our little community. Yep. And we will link all of that up in the show notes at nonprofit bootcamp forward slash podcast

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] so you can check all of that out. Tara, any final words for any chamber leaders out

[Tara Lea] there? Yes, stick with it. It is the best job in the world. I think a lot of times it’s a super hard job. And it’s easy to get burnt out because you’re doing 10 million things. But it is so rewarding and so awesome to be part of. And as a 10 year veteran, I wouldn’t have any other way. I love coming to work every single day. And I hope that other folks find that that passion as well and they stick with their jobs.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love it. Well, thank you so much for being our guest on today’s episode. Thank you for the opportunity. It

[Tara Lea] was fantastic.

[Closing] Hey, thanks for listening to chats with chambers. For more information about the chamber featured in this episode or to check out show notes for links and resources. Visit nonprofitbootcamponline/podcast. Hey subscribe, give us a five star review if you liked what you heard and if you are a chamber would like to be a guest on this show. Hey, email us Or Links in the show notes


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Fremont is responsible for all the Costco chickens west of the Mississippi! It’s about 25,000 situated between Lincoln and Omaha. They have a diverse business economy. Traveling nurses, tech business is growing, plus a small university helps create that diversity.

In 2019, there was a big flood in Fremont and there was no way for anyone to get in or out. The community really pulled together and supported each other. That feeling also continued on as COVID hit and built strong bonds between businesses that even used to be competitive with each other.

Workforce is still their biggest challenge. Their location has helped because they have larger cities they can pull from. Businesses are sharing their resources and helping to bring people in together so they can all pull from a bigger pool of employees.

One of the things Tara wants to share is not taking it personal when a business doesn’t renew. Instead, try and ask them and get personal. What is it that they need for support? Is it that they can’t afford their membership and their might be additional resources for them? Or could it be that they’re not getting the right value. 

Questions We Asked

  • What is the Fremont Area Chamber all about? [1:04]
  • What are some wins? [3:14]
  • What are challenges you face? [5:44]
  • What is your tip and trick to pass on to other chambers? [8:10]
  • How can you learn more about Fremont? [10:58]
Fremont, NE chamber logo

Tara Lea

Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce

This is Fremont, it’s not the biggest town, but we’ve got heart, we’ve got soul and here we grow.

We’re a place to grow up, a place to raise a family and a place to come home to no matter how long you have been gone.
A place where a good idea can take flight.  A place where entrepreneurs stand out. A place where small business, makes a big impact. Here we grow.

A place where isn’t not about dollars and cents but lives improved, connections made and community strengthened. A place to build not just a business but a life. Fremont. Here we grow.

 Fremont is diverse, inclusive, and collaborative.

Fremont is positioned for growth because of the community’s strong foundation, agricultural heritage and skilled workforce. But that’s not all the community is focused on. Fremont’s leaders and residents are looking to the future and building upon the city’s diversity to identify new opportunities for advancement and growth. Through inclusivity and collaboration, the city is poised to reach new heights. Fremont.  Here We Grow.

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