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Making Time for Face to Face Conversations

Havre, MT


[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 

[Patrick Kirby] Well, hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of chat with chambers. Very excited for you. Because I think we got a great guest. I know so because you know, as a member of the North Dakota tribe here, we always strive to get as many Norwegians on as possible. We got a great one for you today, who happens to be the executive director of the heavier chamber in Montana, Jessica fogger. Bucky, welcome to the channel chambers. How are you?

[Jessica Fagerbakke] I’m very well, thank you for having me.

[Patrick Kirby] Very excited to chat with you. If I find somebody who is listening to this on all of my favorite ways that I get podcast, but I’ve never heard of Javier Montana, I probably need to know what you do where you are, and cool things that are happening if you want to give us a 5000 foot view of where you are. Yeah. So however,

[Jessica Fagerbakke] Montana is located in north central Montana, we’re like 40 miles from the Canadian border. And we are a community of about 9500 people. So we’re just big enough to offer everything that you need, but small enough to where we are a tight knit community that shows up for everything. This community is just awesome. Since taking the job as director, I’ve really learned how community minded our our town is. It’s pretty cool.

[Patrick Kirby] I love that. What is the business climate life in header?

[Jessica Fagerbakke] Right now. It’s pretty awesome. We have a lot of new businesses opening up a lot of new restaurants. We’re getting a little bit of variety, we’re getting a gluten free, we’ve got a barbecue joint now that just opened up we’ve got a fro yo place. We just a lot of new business coming in. We’ve got some antique shops coming in. We have some art galleries, we’ve got it all we’ve got a furniture store, we’ve got a Walmart, we have a couple grocery stores, we’ve got everything that you need here and have her and businesses good.

[Patrick Kirby] I liked that I shouldn’t have done this interview over lunch when you’re mentioning all those delicious places, which is really kind of interesting. All right, if you were to tell me, what is the one cool, or maybe a couple of cool things that is I wouldn’t not know in your community. What is something really cool. You’re known for what you’re what, what’s amazing things I’m going to find if I had old an encyclopedia, and I looked it up on the Internet, what would I not know about?

[Jessica Fagerbakke] Well, I moved here four and a half years ago. And I learned that there are a lot of really cool things about however, that I had no idea existed. So we have an underground and you can take the underground tour. Yes, we’re just very rich in history here. And the there was an arson fire and there is now so they moved underground. And then there was a brick factory. So they opened. They built all of the streets out of brick when they rebuilt the city. And you can now tour that underground still to today. And the railroad actually comes through here as well. We do have an Amtrak stop daily each direction so and it’s right in the heart of our downtown. So it’s walkable to everything. And we have a buffalo jump, and you can go and tour that and they actually cut into the side of the wall. And so are into the side of the cliff. And so you can actually see the more prosperous years where there are more bones versus the less prosperous years. We also have fort Assiniboine that’s just six miles south of town here. So if you’re a history buff, this is definitely a place for you to visit. We have a couple of museums, we have a railroad museum. And then we also have the Earl clack Museum, which also has some dinosaur stuff in it. We’re along the dinosaur trail. So all the way from Glasgow out to Glacier National Park. Basically, you can visit museums along the way and see a lot of dinosaur artifacts. We actually have a paleontologist that lives here and have her pretty cool stuff. We have a battlefield just 23 miles east of us the Bear Paw Battlefield. And then one of the coolest things that we have here is we’re in the plains, but we have a little mountain ranges just to the south of town here and hover and it’s called the bear paws. And it’s because it looks like a stretched out bear’s paw from the sky. And it’s also the The largest park in the nation county park. So we we also hold the largest county park in the nation here, we’re just this little hidden gem that a lot of people don’t know about.

[Patrick Kirby] That is a list of way too many awesome things to count. And I so appreciate that. As a chamber leader, as a chamber of commerce, what is some of the most proud things that you have been doing or something that you get to brag about a little bit here with you and have your and the community that you serve.

[Jessica Fagerbakke] So I’ve only been in this role, I’m coming up on three months here at the end of this month. And in that short time, we have got to put together the bear pod marathon. So it was the second annual we threw that puppy together in two months time. And it was a whirlwind. And I learned a lot, but our community was so supportive. It was amazing. We had 325 runners, and we had a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5k. And they actually get to run through the largest county park and through the bear paws into Hamer. And it was a really cool event that was really well received. And we just we got rave reviews. And everyone said, we wouldn’t have known that it was only your second year of hosting this marathon, it was just really well put together. And community was just arms wide open to all the visitors we had. Fifth people from 15 states and two Canadian provinces that came and have her all admit, however, is not the easiest place to get to. That’s one of our challenges is logistically, you’re driving, you’re taking Amtrak or you’re flying, we do have an airport, but it’s very minimal flights in and out. So our closest national international airport is two hours away. in Great Falls, Montana. So it was pretty awesome to see that it had grown from last year. And we just people loved it.

[Patrick Kirby] There’s something about gathering people in, in a large event nowadays, where you’re just like, I need to see people and this is great. What a wonderful setup to make that happen from 15 states in two provinces in Canada. That’s a pretty amazing thing. Executive Directors of anything, including chambers of commerce, we know it’s not sunshine and rainbows and puppy dogs and ice cream all the time. There’s challenges galore. Where are you finding your biggest challenge in haver and how are you overcoming said challenges.

[Jessica Fagerbakke] I think that we have an awesome community, a great community, but I am one that thrives on change. I love change. And change is scary and intimidating for a lot of people. And so when you have a community that has done things the same way for a long time, and it works, it’s really hard to have anything change whether it’s an event, whether it’s the look and feel of the town. So that’s one of the challenges that I’m working through right now we actually have another committee separate from the chamber, that’s downtown hammer matters. And we just really want to dress up downtown, give it a facelift, you know, really show off, we have a university here, and we have all of this history here. But you wouldn’t really know it driving through. And so I really want to make it so that when people pass through town, they want to say, Oh, wow, what a cool place didn’t know it existed. Let’s stop and check it out. And so getting people on board with that has definitely been a challenge in the last three months that I have been involved with it. But I think that people will come around I think we’ll get there.

[Patrick Kirby] I think a lot of people who are executives or leadership in the chamber listening to this right now have all nodded their head in unison. When they say change and is a challenge to anything within the chamber and communities as a whole. I think that’s, that’s a really not uncommon thing. I think every I think he made a lot of friends with that particular comment. I know you’ve only been in the role for three months. But that does not make you not an expert in a couple of things, including tips and tricks and things that you have seen working and we really love to kind of give what’s your best practice? What is your thing you found that has worked the best that maybe another chamber executive is going to take and use in their own community, you have a tip and trick for us on best practices where things are going really well recruiting, retaining or putting additional value on your chamber membership.

[Jessica Fagerbakke] I think that I’m face to face conversations getting out and getting into the businesses of the Chamber members or getting out to visit if there’s individuals or nonprofits going making the time it’s, it’s sometimes seems impossible to make that time but carve it out set out one hour a day a couple times a week or what have you, and go do those walkabouts in your community and stop in ask what you can do for them and, and just be an ear for ideas. I think some of the best ideas that we’ve came up with we’ve solved A lot of problems just having these little short one on ones. Now, taking that into action and actually making it happen is another is a whole nother thing. But I also, I think that that would probably be my number one piece of advice is to get out and have those face to faces make time for it.

[Patrick Kirby] I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice we’ve heard, because I think it’s so important, especially after we’ve been locked away for a couple of years. Nothing better than being able to read somebody face to face. Great tip. Great trick. So I’m a history buff my kids like dinosaurs, I think I’m gonna up and move my company to have her. That sounds like a great plan. I don’t know if I’m sold on this chamber thing, though. So, Jessica, you get to elevator pitch me on why I should join the hacker Chamber of Commerce go? Well,

[Jessica Fagerbakke] we, we hold a lot of events throughout the year that our Chamber members can benefit from. And we not only are advocating for business and growth and our community, but we’re also advocating for our community. So we’re trying to bridge the gap between businesses and the community, as well as the university and the community here in hammer. So we put together a lot of events throughout the year that bring visitors into the community which can help your business. And we also host a lot of local events that are downtown or up at the mall, to where we bring the community together and get them out walking through your stores, you know, helping your business and all of those ways as well. And we do a lot of social media push for you, we’ll help share anything. And then we are also about to start doing feature Fridays. So every Friday, we will have a post of one of our Chamber members, just what you are and about a 32nd clip of just getting it out in the community and letting people know who you are what you offer, and reminding people that you’re out there and you and you want them to come in and see what you’re all about.

[Patrick Kirby] Sounds like you are a de facto advocate and event planner for me my business, which means I’m sold. So you sold me I’m going to join it’s going to be easy. As soon as I move in. I’m signing my paperwork. Jessica, thank you so much. How do we get a hold of you? And how do we learn a little bit more about your chamber? Where do we go on the interwebs? To find out all the cool things that are happening in haver? How do we go? Yes, we

[Jessica Fagerbakke] have a website, it’s have her That’s h a v r e chamber And you can call me Monday through Friday 10 to three at 406-265-4383. Because I’m out doing my community outreach from eight to 10am in three to 5pm.

[Patrick Kirby] I love that I we’re gonna put all those links in the show notes, as usual. So click on there and go find a route to whatever and find it quickly. Because I think you know, you want to see history, you want to see some really cool stuff and you want to find a hidden gem in the middle of where you didn’t expect to. Congratulations, you just found your roadmap to success. Jessica, thanks so much for what you do for Chamber Leadership. Thanks so much for what you do to kind of think outside of the box and find that change maker opportunity within the community, using your chamber membership to not only be an advocate for you, but to be that event planning partner to kind of drum up some businesses and some new faces and names strolling across for Chamber members as well. And mostly, thanks so much for being a guest here on chats with chambers.

[Jessica Fagerbakke] Thank you so much for having me.

[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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Havre is in North Central MT. It is a tight knit community of about 9,500 people. New business is coming in and providing more diversity in food, retail and more! They have an underground tour from when they city had a big fire and needed to build underground.  They’re also on the dinosaur trail so you can check out some artifacts. There is even a paleontologist in town who’s doing research.

They just ran their second annual Bear Paw Run with great success! Jessica is proud to see it come together so successfully as she is a newer executive at her chamber. They had runners from 15 states and two Canadian provinces.

Change is always something difficult for people to accept. That comes from events, look and feel of the town and how people perceive their community. She’s working hard to help the community look as incredible as it is so people driving through see how special it is and want to stop and hang out!

 Face to face conversations make a big difference. Make the time even if it feels impossible. Block off time and make it happen. Be an ear and just ask what you can do to support them.

Questions We Asked

  • What is the Havre Area Chamber all about? [1:23]
  • What are some wins? [5:25]
  • What are challenges you face? [7:22]
  • What is your tip and trick to pass on to other chambers? [9:06]
  • How can you learn more about Havre? [10:41]
Havre chamber logo

Jessica Fagerbakke

Havre Area Chamber of Commerce

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