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Rebrand, refresh, revive

The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce unveils new logo, releases 20-year economic impact study

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February 10, 2023

OSHKOSH – The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce is starting the new year with a fresh, new look and updated brand for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce – a change President and CEO Rob Kleman said has been months, if not years, in the making.

“We worked quite diligently over a number of months on this campaign and the logo was a culmination of that,” he said. 

Unveiled at the chamber’s 115th annual meeting, Makenna Uhen, marketing and communications manager for the chamber, said the new logo was designed to be more modern, contemporary and energetic, and to emphasize the chamber’s four pillars – economic development, advocacy, programs and services and talent and workforce development.

Uhen said the chamber also wanted to enhance its image among its members and within the community.

“We also did an extensive color exploration when assigning a color to each one of our pillars (represented by dots in the logo),” she said. “Green is the color of growth, renewal and prosperity, representing the pillar of economic development. Blue is the color for trustworthiness, responsibility and honesty, representing the pillar of advocacy. Orange is the color for determination, creativity, success and adventure, representing the pillar of programs and services. Lastly, pink is the color for nurturing, compassion and energy, representing the pillar of talent and workforce development.”

Ultimately, Uhen said the chamber believes the new logo will be instrumental in building the Oshkosh Chamber brand experience, as well as “attract and retain our current and future membership.”

Years-long plan
Kleman said the logo actually came out of strategic planning from a number of years ago.

“We formed a public relations committee that has been working on branding and the image of the Oshkosh Chamber,” he said. “We think the new logo represents us well. We’re excited about the new logo and what it means for the chamber. This is a time of transition for us, so we thought (the annual meeting) was a good time to (unveil it).”

Kleman said the transition also involves staff restructuring and reorganization of several departments, as well as several new hires.

Rob Kleman

One of the biggest changes involved Kleman’s taking over for longtime President/CEO John Casper, who retired at the end of 2022.

At his retirement, Kleman said Casper was one of the longest-tenured, if not the longest chamber CEO in Wisconsin, having been a chamber executive for more than 30 years.

Kleman has also been at the chamber for the better part of three decades, and until he took over as president/CEO, he served as senior vice president of economic development.

“From a chamber and management side, it was a great opportunity to work with John over this time, to learn from him and be mentored by him for so many years,” Kleman said, adding that during the last six months or so before Casper retired, he had a chance to shadow Casper on various projects and efforts.

When Kleman assumed president and CEO duties, the chamber hired Colan Treml to serve as the new economic development director.

Other additions over the last year include Trina Woldt as the director of Leadership Oshkosh; Julie Davids as education and talent management director; and Nathan Born, who was hired last month as special events coordinator. 
“We even have two new receptionists,” Kleman said. “So, it’s been a whirlwind lately.” 

Kleman said the additions were part of a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had some layoffs during COVID where we reduced staff from 10 to five,” he said. “Now we’re back up to 11 staff members.”

Economic study
In addition to the logo/rebrand announcement, the chamber’s annual meeting also included the release of the results of a recently-conducted economic study – which reviewed a 20-year period from 2001-21.

The study – done in 2022 by the Center for Customized Research and Services at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO) – evaluated the chamber’s operations, economic development programming and the broader regional economy’s performance in the past 20 years.

The study showed the chamber’s activities generated and supported $1.56 billion in combined economic impact, which resulted in an average of $72 million in new economic impact each year.

The report also shows chamber efforts helped create and support 13,500 jobs during those 20 years – which equated to $650 million in wages and benefits and $156 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.

“It also looked at the chamber’s investment in economic development and business development efforts over those 20 years,” Kleman said. “The study showed for every dollar invested, there was a 140:1 annual return on investment (ROI).”

He said a median ROI of 140:1 across all activities was determined to be a reasonable estimate and consistent with the chamber’s explicit impact, as well as with realistic estimates of prior and future economic growth.

Kleman said it also aligns with the ROI goals of other economic development incentives, such as Enterprise Zone incentives or Tax Increment Financing.

Overall, he said the numbers somewhat confirmed what they estimated.

“We knew we were a leader in the state and in the marketplace,” Kleman said. “As part of an overall regional economy – which has been the Fox River Valley and the New North region – this has been one of the state’s largest markets.”

Kleman said the study confirmed the chamber’s investment in time, effort and money into business and economic development efforts is paying off.

“It’s good for Oshkosh, as well as the chamber and our membership,” he said. “The bottom line is, we need to continue to invest in the growth of Oshkosh and our region.”

Kleman said as Oshkosh’s lead business association, the chamber needs to continue being a “guardian” of the business community and an “advocate” for business in Oshkosh and the Oshkosh community.

“The advocacy, the programs and services, developing talent in the workforce, retaining our existing talent and the economic development efforts, all tie together in the overall delivery of services,” he said.

Where to go from here?
Kleman said they’ll continue doing a lot of things they’ve been doing – one of which is partnering and collaborating with entrepreneurs, employers and workers to continue investing, inventing and innovating for a better future.

“I think a large share of our members – 80%, maybe even 90% – are small businesses,” he said. “So, we want to continue entrepreneurship efforts and entrepreneurial, developmental-heavy programs, such as our revolving loan fund for small businesses.”

Kleman said the chamber also wants to continue working with the city, the BID (Businesses Improvement District), GO-EDC (Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation and the (Oshkosh Area Community) Foundation.

Makenna Uhen

“We want to continue developing the central city and downtown Oshkosh and partnering with organizations working on those same efforts to make sure we’re harnessing the power of all of our organizations and partners,” he said. “And Winnebago County, Fox Valley Technical College and UWO are included in those we partner with, as well.”

Kleman said it’s important to ensure the chamber’s efforts are creating an environment conducive to business growth.

“That may sound like an old adage, but it is true,” he said. “In our community, we have to be welcoming to business, we have to have an environment that’s advantageous for them to either start a business or grow a business and have an eco-system of communication and that makes it easy for them to move here.”

Transportation, Kleman said, is a big part of that, as are tax incentives.

“We also have to be a connector to programs and resources that, maybe, we don’t offer, but we have to help them find those things, whether it’s local banks and financial institutions, or even state or federal programs and resources,” he said.

Kleman said the chamber has always had a focus on outbound marketing, noting that in his tenure with the chamber, they’ve attended more than 35 trade shows promoting opportunities in Oshkosh – whether on the commercial side or industrial side.

Something he said the chamber will continue to do, as well as focusing on developing talent at an earlier age.

“We have a business education partnership effort with the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) we started in (the 2022-23 school year),” he said. “It’s designed to promote careers and career exploration. We’re putting a focused effort on that talent development.”

Kleman said the chamber’s education and talent management director has been out in middle schools helping develop soft skills, as well as coordinating a career fair in conjunction with OASD.

The career fair will be held at Oshkosh West High School Feb. 23.

Kleman said 80 companies and other organizations are set to participate.

“It’ll focus on making those students aware of the various careers and opportunities out there,” he said. “We want them to start thinking about those things at an earlier age. We want to engage younger professionals.”

“There’s an extreme shortage of IT workers in our entire region,” he said. “So, we started this consortium of business and education partners. Fox Valley Technical College is a major player in that, along with UWO and the OASD, and many local businesses that are engaged in technology and not just tech-oriented businesses.”

Kleman said there are many partners engaged in community development and business development.

“It’s our goal moving forward to continue to work with all those partners – on the private side and the public side,” he said. “Our fact sheet refers to the power of collaboration – we definitely want to continue that and be a good partner in the community and work together to continue to make Oshkosh a great place to live, work and play.”

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