Chamber Columns
by Cindy White
55 Charleston Chamber Members Benefit from Electric Program!
            Electric supply contracts were recently written for 55 Charleston Chamber members. 
            Don Frontone, President/CEO for The Stone River Group acted as the broker for the group and negotiated a fixed rate per kilowatt hour for the life of the 34 month contract period. The new contracts went into effect on February 1.  By securing a rate based on the aggregation of the total usage for the group, even smaller commercial users were able to take advantage of the fixed rate.  The program has provided Chamber members a streamlined, convenient, and safe way to purchase electricity in the often confusing deregulated energy provider market.  All projections indicate that electric rates from all sources are only going to continue to rise. Capacity rates have already gone up and consumption rates will follow.  Several outdated coal plants are scheduled to be retired in 2015 and new EPA rules reducing mercury, acidic gasses and other toxins will also go into effect for 2015.  Both of these factors will reduce the supply of electricity available and therefore cause the consumption rates to increase. Frontone negotiated a fixed rate for the Chamber group for consumption only.
Capacity charges are also projected to go up dramatically. Capacity charges are established by state legislature and cannot be negotiated.

The Chamber’s strategy this contract renewal period was to lock in a consumption rate for a longer period of time to provide price protection for the members.
The Chamber first offered this program to its members in late 2010. The combined savings for the group from 2010-2014 was nearly $350,000, with an average savings of 20-25% per year per business.

For the first time ever, the Chamber is now offering a savings option for its members who use natural gas. Savings for Ameren natural gas customers who sign a contract typically range from 10% to 30% depending on which products are being used.  Any business interested in taking advantage of the natural gas option will need to fill out a Request for Rate Quote form and send it and a copy of a current natural gas bill to the Chamber office by the end of the day on Monday, March 10.  The Stone River Group will then process the request through Vanguard Energy and contact each business directly with the details of the natural gas contract.

This is a once a year opportunity to participate in the natural gas program. The natural gas contract rates will go into effect on May 1 and are good for one year.

For more information about the electric and natural gas programs, call the Charleston Chamber office at 345-7041. The Request for Rate Quote form can also be downloaded from the Chamber homepage at

by Cindy White
President & CEO

            We’ve had a lot of great compliments on our Annual Dinner which was held last Saturday. The theme for the dinner was “The Stars are Out Tonight” complete with shimmering blue and silver decorations and flickering candle lights on the tables.
            Over 250 people came out to enjoy dinner, the silent auction, awards program and socializing. Many thanks go to the Annual Dinner committee for pulling together another successful event. Committee members were: Sarah Hendrix (First Neighbor Bank), Beka Murphy (Jazzercise), Elizabeth Stark (First Mid-IL Bank & Trust), Mike Staton (Coldwell Banker Classic Real Estate) and the Chamber staff.  

            Greg Trumbold (Cromwell Radio Group) served as the emcee for the evening. The premiere event sponsor for the evening was Inyart Tire & Auto Center.

            Outgoing Chairman of the Board Brad Barker (Consolidated Communications) passed the gavel to incoming Chairman Mike Staton (Coldwell Banker Classic Real Estate) and then the new Chamber Board of Directors for 2015 was introduced to the crowd.   Three Chamber members were honored with special awards during the program before dinner.

Mayor Larry Rennels presented the Mayor’s Award to Home Again Consignment Shop owned by Steve and Julie Runyon for their efforts in collaborating with other small businesses in town, especially those along 18th Street, with such projects as the 18th Street Spring Block Party, the 18th Street Fall Festival and the 18th Street Farmer’s Market.   The Mayor’s Award was sponsored by Homefield Energy.  

Outgoing Chairman Brad Barker selected First Mid-IL Bank & Trust as the recipient of the Chairman's award.  Rance Higgins, Charleston Community Bank President accepted the award on behalf of the bank and introduced his Charleston “dream team” of employees.  First Mid is celebrating their 150th anniversary this year, so receiving the award was an exciting way to kick off the celebration year. The award was sponsored by Consolidated Communications.

The Legacy Award was created to recognize those businesses that have been longtime members of the local business community with an enduring commitment to customer service, community involvement and support of the Chamber.   
Incoming Chairman Mike Staton presented the Legacy Award to Pagliai’s Pizza. Paul Pagliai and his family accepted the award. Paul’s parents, Aldo and Betty Pagliai, took a risk and moved to Charleston in 1964 to open a pizza restaurant in the small college town. Over the years, Pagliai’s Pizza has become an integral part of the fabric of the community.   For many former EIU students and Charleston residents, a meal at Pagliai’s Pizza is on their list of must-do’s when they return to town for a visit. The Legacy Award was sponsored by Mediacom Business.

The evening culminated with the presentation of four more awards after dinner.

The Business Woman of the Year award was introduced as a new award this year. It was proposed by and sponsored by Mediacom Communications, Inc.   Bud Walters, president and owner of the Cromwell Radio Group presented the inaugural award to Carol Floyd.   Carol has been the General Manager and Market Manager for the Cromwell Radio Group in Mattoon for the past 10 years. Last fall she was recognized by Radio Ink magazine, a national publication, as one of the “Best Managers in Radio.”  Of the 32 managers that were recognized, just 9 were women. She has recently accepted a new position as General Manager of three radio stations in the Bloomington/Normal area.

Congratulations again to Toq Lawrence for being chosen Outstanding Citizen of the Year.  Toq spent her life’s work as the Executive Director of Mid-Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters over the past 40 years. During that time she touched countless lives throughout the region and has been a real inspiration to all who know her.  The Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award was sponsored by Sarah Bush Lincoln.

County Office Products was honored as the Small Business of the Year. Owner Frank Perry spoke about his lifelong dream to own a small business. His business has managed to survive in a highly competitive market by providing exceptional customer service and emphasizing the importance of buying locally.
The award was sponsored by The SEED Center at Eastern Illinois University.  
Special mention also goes to Sarah Will (First Neighbor Bank) for being selected as the Diplomat of the Year. The Diplomats serve as the Chamber’s first line of volunteers and are a huge asset to the organization throughout the year. The Diplomat of the Year award was sponsored by Harbor Light Hospice.

            Thank you to all of the other sponsors for the evening. The Silver Star sponsor was EIU Lumpkin College of Business & Applied Sciences.
            Blue Star sponsors for the event were First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, First Neighbor Bank, Sarah Bush Lincoln and Yost Management Company, LLC.
            White Star sponsors were Carle, Consolidated Communications, Inc., Cromwell Radio Group, CTF Illinois, Eastern Illinois University - Office of the President, First Mid Insurance Group and Journal Gazette/Times-Courier.  

by Cindy White
The staff and board of directors of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce wish everyone a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. We would like to especially thank our members, associates and friends for their support in 2014 and look forward to continued partnerships in 2015. Our members can be proud that they are part of an organization that works diligently to improve the overall business climate in our area.

We encourage our members to support fellow Chamber members and to proudly display their association with the Chamber in their marketing efforts, whether it is through print, radio, internet or social media. Display the Chamber logo and the “Buy Local” decal and let other people know that you are contributing to our community’s betterment through your membership.
This past year was an busy and productive one for the Chamber. With true team effort on the part of our members, diplomats, directors, committee chairs and staff we are proud of our accomplishments in 2014 and look forward to new opportunities in 2015.
Below are a few of the highlights and activities from the past year.
“Buy Local – It’s Your Choice”: The Chamber continues to encourage community residents and Chamber members to shop locally, eat locally and recognize where their money is going. The Chamber endorsed and promoted “Small Business Saturday” and sells Choose Charleston Gift Checks throughout the year for employee bonuses, incentives and gifts. Our local small businesses are the life line of our local economy and add character and personality to our community.            
Advocacy: The Chamber regularly forwards up-to-date information regarding what is happening at the state level regarding legislation on business related issues. Our legislative agenda includes opposing a graduated or progressive income tax in Illinois, supporting a new transportation infrastructure construction program for Illinois, advocating for further Workers’ Compensation reform, and endorsing the need for pension reform in Illinois.
Locally, the Chamber co-sponsored a Meet & Greet with gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner in May and the Chamber Diplomats hosted a Legislative Update Lunch with State Senator Dale Righter and State Representative Brad Halbrook in June.    

            Networking, Networking, Networking: Chamber members could mix and mingle at their choice of networking events. Regular monthly Business After Hours were supplemented with Business Before Hours, Ribbon Cuttings, Open Houses and Groundbreaking Ceremonies scattered throughout the year. In addition, the Annual Dinner in January, What Women Want in April, the Golf Outing in June, the Business Showcase in October and the “Beatlemania” Lootery in November brought hundreds of people together.
            New in 2014 was a Progressive Business After Hours Around the Square held in July. Fourteen Chamber members around the square participated and over 70 people came out to enjoy the evening and family oriented event.

            Business Promotion: There were continual efforts throughout the year to strengthen and promote our members and their businesses. Networking events bring people together to build business relationships. Sponsorship opportunities provide a way for our members to promote their products and services.  Publications such as the email weekly updates and printed Membership Directory offered tangible promotional markets. Social media is used extensively to promote members and their businesses to an even larger market.
            As part of the Charleston Riot Anniversary Commemoration, the Chamber helped sponsor a “Looking for Lincoln’s Hat” contest. Eight area businesses participated and judges selected First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention winners. The contest received a lot of publicity via multiple media formats.

            Optimizing our Brand: Members listed in the online Business Directory of the Chamber website received a combined total of over 1.54 MILLION views over the past year. Website visitors searched for keywords, categories or business names in the online directory over 41,100 times in 2014 and most of our members received between 5,500 and 7,000 hits to their directory listings in the past 12 months.
Our Town: Strengthening Connections Between EIU & the Business Community: The Chamber co-hosted this breakfast meeting with the intention of bringing together members of the university and the business community who were interested in discussing how they could expand current partnerships and find new opportunities to work together. Five suggestions emerged as priority issues for the group to work on.
The Department of Procurement, Disbursements and Contract Services at EIU organized and hosted an “Opportunity Fair” in December as a way to help local vendors learn how to do business with the university.

            Member Recognition: As a way to publicly recognize even more of our Chamber members, several new awards were added to the awards ceremony portion of the Annual Dinner last January. New awards were the Chairman’s Award, the Mayor’s award and the Legacy Award. The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Twice Is Nice for their business success and contributions back to the community. The Outstanding Citizen of the Year was Dale Wolf and Stan Adkins was honored as the Volunteer of the Year. Suzanne Logue was selected as the Diplomat of the Year.
Workshops and Seminars: The Chamber sponsored a workshop specifically targeted for our businesses on how to use Quickbooks.    
Group Electric Program: We currently have 54 Chamber members participating in our aggregated electric buying program with new contracts in place until the end of December 2017. This combined group of users realizes an average savings of 25% on their annual electric consumption. Chamber members can now also take advantage of lower rates on their commercial natural gas bills.

            Business Showcase: Thirty Chamber businesses participated in this event which was brought back after a ten year hiatus. Over 120 people came through the expo to discover what products and services are available right here in our community.

            Looking Ahead: The Charleston Chamber is off to a strong start in 2015 with a new Program of Work, a dynamic engaged board of directors, a fun-filled star studded awards themed Annual Dinner on January 24, a new Membership Directory & Buyer’s Guide at the printer, an active Diplomats group, an new Community Update Breakfast set for March 12, travel programs to Ireland and Venice & the Italian Lakes, strong collaborative efforts with EIU, and a full calendar of networking events for the coming months.

2015 promises to be another busy and productive year for the Chamber. We are proud of all of our Chamber members and appreciate the vital role they play in our community’s economy. As always, it is important for us to remember to support our local businesses. Supporting them keeps our local economy strong. Buy Local – It’s Your Choice!

Released June 13, 2014 on the Journal-Gazette/Times-Courier Business Page
by Cindy White

Legislative Update Topic of Lunch Meeting

The Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce Diplomats are hosting a “Legislative Update” lunch on June 19 at the Unique Suites Hotel, 920 W. Lincoln Ave. in Charleston. The lunch will begin at noon and conclude by 1:30 p.m.

State Sen. Dale Righter and State Rep. Brad Halbrook will speak to the group and give an overview of the current issues facing the state.

A buffet lunch will be served promptly at noon, with time for eating and networking. The legislative update will begin at 12:20 p.m., followed by time for questions from the attendees.

The cost of the luncheon is $15 per person and $10 for Charleston Chamber Diplomats. Seating will be at tables of eight. All area business people are welcome to attend.

Preregistration is required. Reservations can be made by calling the Charleston Chamber office at 217-345-7041 or registering online at by the end of the day June 17.

There is still time to “Rock Around the Course” at the 39th Annual Charleston Chamber Golf Outing on June 27 at the Charleston Country Club. The title sponsor for this year’s outing is Neal Tire & Auto Service, Charleston.

The all-inclusive fee of $100 covers everything for the day, including use of the driving range, 18 holes of golf, cart, four mulligans per team, hot lunch, all games and contests on the course, snacks and beverages all day on the course, and hors d’oeuvres in the clubhouse at the end of the day.

Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and lunch will be served at 11 a.m. Start the day off by getting some practice shots in at the driving range, sponsored by Pilson Auto Center of Charleston.

Lunch will be served from the grill on the green near the clubhouse starting at 11 a.m. Lunch is sponsored by Peoples Bank & Trust.

Tee off time for foursomes is at noon. At the end of the day, prizes will be awarded for winners in each division -- men’s, women’s, and mixed.

All golfers are welcome to “mix and mingle” while enjoying UV Blue Lemonade and margaritas at the two complimentary “Fun in the Sun” stands. The stands will be located near the seventh and 16th holes, and are sponsored by Neal Tire & Auto Service and Heritage Woods of Charleston.

The Par 3 Poker contest sponsored by the Brick House Bar & Grill and Dirty’s combines skill and luck for a chance to win a cash prize of $200. Hole-in-one prizes include a vehicle donated by Diepholz Chevrolet Buick Pontiac GMC Cadillac, $3,000 in cash donated by Sarah Bush Lincoln and a vehicle donated by K.C. Summers.

Golfers will have the opportunity to “Buy A Skirt” on Hole 11 with the chance to tee off from the women’s tee. Another fun contest is “Beat the Pro” at Hole 8, sponsored by Consolidated Communications. Every golfer who can hit a shot farther than Greg Petersen will be entered into a drawing for a cash prize.

Various other skill contests on the golf course include longest putt, sponsored by Midas Auto Service Experts; longest drive for men, sponsored by Mediacom Business; longest drive for women, sponsored by Cougill Senior Apartments and Highland Place Apartments; and closest to the pin, sponsored by Sanders & Company/Apex/Jakes.

Photos of each foursome will be taken and presented in commemorative frames compliments of First Neighbor Bank.

Golfers will finish up the day with a social hour and hors d’oeurvres in the clubhouse beginning at 5 p.m. Dinner is sponsored by Cooper-Bumpus Insurance.

The deadline to register is June 20. Registration can be done online at or by calling 217-345-7041.

Cindy White is president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Released March 06, 2014 5:30 pm on the Journal-Gazette/Times-Courier Business Page
by Cindy White

Business owners, managers, and employees are invited to attend a special breakfast meeting next Wednesday morning from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

The breakfast is hosted by the administration of Eastern Illinois University and the Board of Directors of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Our Town: Strengthening Connections between EIU & the Business Community” is the theme of the breakfast. The purpose of the breakfast is to bring together members of the university and the business community who are interested in discussing how they can expand current partnerships and find new opportunities to work together.

Speakers from EIU will make short presentations on topics regarding business consulting and students as a part of the local workforce.

The majority of meeting time will then be allotted for open discussion between the attendees and the representatives from the university.

President Bill Perry and other senior administrators will be in attendance to participate in the discussion of how EIU and local business can collaborate and grow together.

The breakfast will take place in the University Ballroom of the University Union on the EIU campus. Registration is free and includes breakfast. Attendance is limited to 40. Parking passes will not be required for visitors.

Registration is required and can be done by going to the Chamber website at and following the link from the homepage or calling the office at 217-345-7041.

-- -- --

Donations are now being taken for the “Uptown Boutique” shopping experience, which will be part of the “What Women Want” event on April 10. We are seeking donations of gently used shoes, purses, bags, scarves, belts and hats. No clothing please. They will all be displayed on special tables at the event and priced to sell.

As you do your spring closet cleaning, gather up those “lonely” items that need a new home and donate them so another woman can enjoy them. Donation drop off locations are: the Charleston Chamber office (501 Jackson Ave.), the Cromwell Radio station (209 Lake Land Boulevard, Mattoon), the United Way office (114 N. 16th St., Mattoon) and the Volunteer Services office at Sarah Bush Lincoln.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Uptown Boutique items will be donated to United Way of Coles County.

Any woman in the community is welcome to attend “What Women Want.” Event tickets include entrance into the expo, a complimentary glass of wine, food, desserts, chocolate, door prize drawings and Uptown Boutique shopping.

It all takes place at the Unique Suites Hotel, 920 W. Lincoln Ave. in Charleston on Thursday, April 10 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for $20 per person prior to the evening of the event or for $25 at the door. To purchase tickets or donate items, call the Charleston Chamber at 217-345-7041 or stop by the office at 501 Jackson Ave. Tickets can also be purchased online at

Cindy White is president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.


Vendors, Exhibitors, Donations Sought for 'What Women Want'
by Cindy White

The Charleston Chamber is seeking vendors, exhibitors and donations for the third annual “What Women Want” event this spring. 

This event focuses on promoting, encouraging and entertaining women and will be held April 10 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Unique Suites Hotel, 920 W. Lincoln Ave. in Charleston. 

“What Women Want” will offer something for every woman - wine, chocolate, food, shopping, fashion, prizes, information and fun! The evening will feature a mini expo, complimentary glass of wine, food samplings from the Brick House restaurant, a variety of chocolate desserts and delicacies, a fashion show, prize giveaways and a shopping boutique. 

The Chamber is now seeking vendors and exhibitors for the expo portion of the event. The purpose of the expo is to highlight women oriented businesses and services available in the Coles County area. Anyone who sells products, services or gives parties of interest to women is invited to register. Examples would be: beauty products, home items and décor, health and wellness information, spa services, hairstyling, gift ideas, skin care products, jewelry, etc. 

Direct sales consultants, home based businesses, artists and crafts persons, and local businesses are all welcome to participate in the expo. 

All vendors will be located in the large banquet room, however, there are limited spaces available. Expo spaces will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis and only one vendor from a company or product line will be showcased. 

Two kinds of exhibitor spaces are available – 6-foot rectangular tables or 5-foot round tables. The rectangular tables will be located around the perimeter of the room and a limited number of round tables will be down the middle. Displays set up on the round tables should be designed to be viewed from all sides. 

Chamber members can reserve either a rectangular or round table for $45. Non-Chamber members will be charged $75 for either kind. Persons who work for a Charleston Chamber member will be charged the discounted rate. 

Products can be sold at the event and bookings taken. Each vendor is also asked to donate an item for prize drawings at the end of the evening. 

Spaces sold out early last year – so be sure to reserve your spot today. 

Donations are also being sought for the Uptown Boutique shopping experience portion of “What Women Want.” We are seeking donations of gently used shoes, purses, bags, scarves, belts and hats. No clothing please. They will all be displayed on special tables at the event and priced to sell. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Uptown Boutique items will be donated to United Way of Coles County. 

As you do your spring closet cleaning, gather up those “lonely” items that need a new home and donate them so another woman can enjoy them. Donation drop-off locations are: the Charleston Chamber office (501 Jackson Ave.), the Cromwell Radio station (209 Lake Land Boulevard, Mattoon), the United Way office (114 N. 16th St., Mattoon) and the Volunteer Services office at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. 

Any woman in the community is welcome to attend. Event tickets include entrance into the expo, a complimentary glass of wine, food, desserts, chocolate, door prize drawings and Uptown Boutique shopping. 

Tickets for “What Women Want” can be purchased for $20 per person prior to the evening of the event or for $25 at the door. To register, purchase tickets or donate items, call the Charleston Chamber at 217-345-7041 or stop by the office at 501 Jackson Ave. Expo registrations and tickets can also be purchased online at 

Cindy White is president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.


by Cindy White


The week of September 10 - 14 has officially been proclaimed “Chamber of Commerce Week.” This year marks the 93rd Anniversary for the Charleston Chamber and we would like to thank all our members for their support over the years.
The Chamber is the principal vehicle through which businesses and professional people work together for the common good and advancement of the community. There are many reasons to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Here are a few:
• Safeguard your business investment in this community by working with others through the Chamber to protect and advance all business.
• Help ensure this community’s progress by the concerted planning, counsel and action that are best done through the work of the Chamber and, in turn, ensure the success of your business.
• Your investment in the Chamber yields many-fold benefits directly back to your personal business including business referrals, networking, exclusive marketing opportunities, access to information, and much more.
• The Chamber supports the retention and expansion of existing companies and organizations while seeking to attract new ones and foster an entrepreneurial spirit at all ages.
• The Chamber helps create and express sound opinions on questions affecting the welfare of your community.
• Members of the Chamber are actually stockholders in the community’s future. They are investing in an organization which has the ability to pool all the community’s financial and volunteer resources in the hopes of improving the overall economic wellbeing of the community.
• The Chamber needs personal service and adequate financial support to carry out its broad program of work to protect and advance business. Being involved is a great way to give back to your community.
• The annual chamber membership investment amount for a business with 3 to 4 employees is $245 which averages out to 67¢ per day. That’s a pretty small price to pay for higher profits and bettering the community and that’s why we say “It Pays to Belong to the Chamber.”
In conjunction with Chamber of Commerce Week, we have several events planned.
Tuesday, September 11 – The Chamber Board of Directors will hold its regular monthly meeting at 7:30 AM. The Chamber is governed by a 15 member board who are all elected from within the general membership. Representatives from the City of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University and the Community Unit 1 School District also serve as ex-officio members. The board meets each month to discuss issues brought to them from the membership, along with other matters relative to the general operations of the organization.
Wednesday, September 12 – Members and prospective members are invited to stop by the Chamber office at 501 Jackson Avenue for an Open House from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM for a light lunch and to learn more about the Chamber of Commerce. Everyone who attends the Open House can register to win various prize giveaways, including a free Lootery ticket, two tickets to the Annual Dinner, one Gold Membership Upgrade, and a free banner ad on the Chamber website.
During the Open House, Chamber staff will be available to give live demonstrations of the Chamber website showing how to navigate the site, take advantage of all the new benefits and tools and maximize their Chamber membership.
Information will also be available on the Chamber group electric buying program. Don Frontone with The Stone River Group will be on hand to answer questions about the program and to explain how members can become a part of the group and start saving money on their electric consumption. Currently, fifty Chamber members participate in the program and collectively have saved over $150,000.
Thursday, September 15 – Dr. John Killough and his staff at the Regional Foot Center will host an Business After Hours and 10 Year Anniversary Celebration from 5 to 7 PM at their office located at 1301 Deerpath Road just off Route 16 between Charleston and Mattoon. They have a great celebration planned with lots of good food, drinks and prizes to give away.
Chamber of Commerce Week is a great time for prospective members to find out more about how Chamber membership can work for them and their business. Any area businesses that are not currently members of the Charleston Chamber who join during Chamber of Commerce Week will be given a special sign on bonus of $50 in Chamber gift checks.
For more information, call the Charleston Chamber at 345-7041.