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City ranks 11th place By Lou Antonelli, Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune Mount Pleasant tourism officials and civic leaders in general were thrilled to learn in July that Mount Pleasant just missed cracking the top ten favorite Texas travel destinations, according to a readers choice survey in Texas Highways magazine. Texas Highways is a monthly magazine with a circulation of 260,000 published by the Texas Department of Transportation that promotes travel and tourism to Texas. The news of Mount Pleasant’s good showing was greeted with enthusiasm by local leaders. “I think it’s awesome. We’re excited the rest of the state can see what a great place we know Mount Pleasant to be,” said City Manager Mike Ahrens. The news was equally well received at the Mount Pleasant Chamber & Visitor’s Council. “We received great news today! Mount Pleasant's #11 has just been shared on Facebook and the magazines will hit the newsstands next week. “This is huge!” said Chamber CEO Faustine Curry. Similar sentiments were expressed by the Chamber’s business leaders. ”It is exciting to see our community recognized for all of the initiatives that help make us a tourist destination,” said Shannon Norfleet, chairman of the Chamber board of directors. Texas Highways asked readers during the fall of 2013 to share their favorite places in the state for the Texas Top-40 Travel

Destinations. Shares were given by phone, email, Facebook, and through many detailed letters. Thousands of Texas Highways readers participated to shape the final list, which was presented throughout 2014, the magazine’s 40th-anniversary year. Mount Pleasant is among the cities highlighted in the July issue.

especially happy to see some of the other locations Mount Pleasant beat out to rank as high as it did, including Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Galveston and Padre Island. Martin Bell, who was the Chamber board chair in 2013, told Texas Highways, “Mount Pleasant is a place that is ‘Everything Texas’ - friendly folks, great food, access to nearby lakes, the historic downtown, the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts, and the Heart’s Bluff Game Ranch.” Norfleet expanded on the role the Chamber plays in encouraging tourism. “We have a strategic plan in place that is designed to directly enhance tourism and benefit our local businesses through our “Everything Texas” campaign. It’s a beautiful partnership between our Chamber of Commerce, our city and our business volunteers “What’s not to like about a place and we are very proud of being called Mount Pleasant? Votes awarded such an accolade,” she poured in for the Northeast Texas said. town,” it wrote, “with special menCurry said Mount Pleastions of the historic downtown ant’s good showing wouldn’t be square and its specialty shops, possible without lots of support including Laura’s Cheesecake & from the community and volunBakery. Among other teers. ‘Pleasantries,’ the town boasts . year-round events, from rodeos to shows at the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts, a historical museum with Caddo and pioneer artifacts, chocolate factory tours, a bluebird trail, and the allure of area parks and lakes.” Curry said she was

Johnny Longlegs twostepped his way across Mount Pleasant and Titus County in 2014. The Mount Pleasant/Titus County Chamber & Visitor’s Center’s mascot, featured on the Everything Texas brand is the focus of a new program to establish Everything Texas certified businesses, products and services. “The Everything Texas Certification Program was created to allow businesses the opportunity to create a product or service or item that fits with the Everything Texas concept as a way to spread the brand,” said Chamber CEO Faustine Curry. The program was born out of the Chamber’s tourism committee at the beginning of the year with two goals in mind. “For the Chamber, it’s an additional marketing push for our businesses not only for people locally, but for people coming into town,” Curry said. “From a tourism perspective, it provides us something else to promote, like an attraction, such as an Everything Texas trail.” Martin Bell, past Chamber chairman and executive vice president of Guaranty Bank and Trust, said the idea is to spread the already popular brand to attract tourists from all over. “I envision a day when somebody stays in an Everything Texas hotel suite, orders the Everything Texas certified entrée at local restaurants and participates in Everything Texas certified activities,” Bell said. Some of that is already in place. For example, Hershel’s Family Restaurant features the “Everything Texas” Angus Burger. For a small fee of $20

per year, a business can apply for Everything Texas certification by completing an application available at the Chamber office. Bell said certified businesses receive an Everything Texas Certified sticker to place in their store window and a digital version to use in their own marketing efforts. Businesses would also receive special benefits such as preferred placement in the Chamber membership directory and at local events. The Chamber also plans to create an Everything Texas self-guided tour. “When people come to town they will get a list of all of the businesses that are certified Everything Texas and they will be able to experience all of the different things that Mount Pleasant and Titus County have to offer,” Bell said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to promote the Everything Texas brand,” Curry said. “We want to promote Mount Pleasant products across the state of Texas and get more people aware of what Mount Pleasant has to offer,” Curry said. Curry said the Chamber’s initial goal is for 20 businesses to sign on, but while the program is still in the beginning stages, Bell envisions it having an international reach. “We’re starting small, but the goal is for it to eventually go worldwide to bring people to Mount Pleasant,” he said.

The Chamber hosted its Chamber 101 new member orientation in March and November. The session helps new Chamber partners get a better idea of how to navigate their chamber membership. They get a “snapshot” of everything the Chamber does, meet other new members and learn ways to get involved in Chamber activities and committees and how involvement benefits their business. Opportunities to serve include serving on committees such as Business Services, Marketing, Education, Tourism, Governmental Affairs and Leadership Mount Pleasant. Serving on one of these committees is the first step in moving up the Chamber leadership ladder, which in turn provides numerous benefits for business growth of business.

The Chamber has increased its communication efforts and its presence on social media outlets. In June, the Chamber added an Online Community Manager to create graphics and content for the Chamber’s various social media pages, blog and newsletters.

Mount Pleasant Texas Visit Mount Pleasant Texas

@Everything Texas

@Mount Pleasant Texas

Mount PleasantTexas

Mount Pleasant was named “Best City” by a group of Texas travel counselors. The group also named local realtor Diana Kennedy, a member of the Mount Pleasant/Titus County Chamber of Commerce tourism committee, as Best Step-On Guide. The 38th annual tour, sponsored by the Texas Travel Industry Association, travels through a different region of the state each year. The group of travel counselors who work at the state’s highway information centers, visited Mount Pleasant and 20 other cities in Northeast Texas in October 2013. The counselors ate at 15 restaurants and visited 36 attractions. “The purpose of the tour is to allow the travel counselors to visit these cities and be able to tell visitors that come into their centers that they’ve been there and they’ve seen it,” said Bob Phillips, the TTIA’s study tour coordinator. Phillips said the travel counselors compile a report on the tour that is then sent out to all of the highway information centers across the state. The Best City and Best Step-On Guide awards were among eight presented at the Stars of Texas awards dinner in April during the Texas Travel Counselors Conference in South Padre Island. The group also handed out awards for Best Breakfast, Best Lunch, Best Dinner, Best Attraction, Best Attraction/Museum Guide and Best Hotel. Mount Pleasant received the group’s top award of “Best City” based on the counselors’ impressions of how the city was promoted during the tour. “It has to do with the community itself and the people in the community. You have such a beautiful city, but the thing that really puts you head and shoulders above everybody else was the people that we came in contact with and how organized and planned you were for this

tour,” Phillips said. “The way the Mount Pleasant folks turned out was just wonderful.” Several Chamber committees worked hard to make the group’s visit a unique experience and one that really showcased the Chamber’s “Everything Texas” motto. Kennedy said Martin Bell, the chairman of the chamber at the time, dressed up like “Barney Fife,” while she and Bo Rester dressed in denim and cowboy boots for the best hoax the tour group has ever seen. “We came up with the idea that we would involve the bus driver and our local Sheriff. We rode in the Sheriff’s car and pulled the bus over at the county line on I-30. We got on the bus and

our fake sheriff’s deputy said, ‘You’ve been pulled over and I want to know who’s in charge of this deal,’” Kennedy said. Phillips said he and his nephew, Davis Phillips – who was actually in charge – were sitting in the front of the bus when the “deputy” boarded. “My nephew immediately points at me and says, ‘He is!’ That’s when “Fife” said, “Well, I’m commandeering this bus.” Phillips said the group fell for the hoax until he looked down and noticed the deputy’s handcuffs. “I saw that they were plastic and then I realized that we’d been had!” he said. “That was


a steam engine trolley and a huge hotel in the park area. People would come from all over and take the waters there at the hotel. I told them I was going to show them some history they would never get out of book,” she said. “That gives a whole different flavor for the city,” Phillips said. “When Diana got on the bus, she felt right at ease, right at home, like somebody you’ve known for a long time. She did a fabulous job.” The group also learned about the Mount Pleasant Rodeo Arena, got to check out a drag racing boat on Town Lake to promote Quake on Town Lake, were treated to a tour of the candymaking process at Sweet Shop USA, got a close up view of the downtown Main Street area and were greeted enthusiastically by huge crowds, cheerleaders and music at stops at the Whatley Center at Northeast Texas Community College and the Mount Pleasant Country Club. Phillips said the people of Mount Pleasant should be very proud of their Chamber and the great job they did in organizing the tour. “It’s wonderful when you see a community like Mount Pleasant that really understands the importance of tourism and better yet, how to market your city and go a tree and beat on the side of the about promoting yourself,” he said. bus. He got on board and he told Chamber CEO Faustine them he couldn’t believe that they Curry said about 40 volunteers hadn’t stop at his cemetery and worked on the tour project. that he had to chase the bus all the “We worked very hard to put Mount way down there to the Masonic Pleasant in its best light and more Cemetery,” Kennedy said. importantly, we wanted to show Kennedy gave them what typical tourists see when they some great stories about the city’s come to Mount Pleasant,” she said. folklore and history, including the “We wanted to make sure they got fact that Kennedy’s grandfather the full meaning of ‘Everything had owned the downtown saloon at Texas.’” one time and how the Caddo Indians had camped at Dellwood Park and they believed the springs there had curative powers. “We had the train depot and a mule-driven trolley and later Rester and Kennedy regaled the group with colorful stories of Mount Pleasant’s history and unique sites in a way that entertained and impressed the counselors. Phillips said the way the stops along the tour were presented really made a lasting impression. “They gave us great information. That’s part of it. To know your town, but to also have fun with it, that’s great,” he said. Kennedy said that when the tour took them past Edwards Cemetery, she told them that the tallest soldier in the Confederate Army had been buried there. “Then we drove down to the Masonic Cemetery and Jacob Butler, who is real tall was dressed up like that soldier. He jumped out from behind

Karen Neeley

Sheila Donnelly

Bill Priefert

Chairman Shannon Norfleet - TRMC Chair-Elect Richard Witherspoon - Herschel’s Vice Chairman David Hooper - Echo Publishing Treasurer Brian Niblett - American National Bank Past-Chair Martin Bell - Guaranty Bank & Trust

Beverly Austin, Small Business Development Center Stephen Currey, Capps Insurance Rob Hedges, Republic Services Diana Kennedy, Century 21 Matt Klump, Expert Computing Brad Lowry, Pilgrim Bank Dennis Newman, Newman Electronics Tommy Shumate, Sisk Motors Mitchell Walker, Dekoron Wire and Cable Jey Yancey, Offenhauser Insurance

that goal with flying colors,” said Chamber CEO Faustine Curry. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the volunteers that gave their heart and soul for the Chamber.” The Chamber celebrated Curry said those volunanother successful Total Resource teers, in turn, support the chamber Campaign at a victory party in and make the chamber a better March. Steve Capps, the chair of resource for businesses. the second annual campaign, “I’m just overwhelmed thanked the teams who fanned out with how generous people are and across the Mount Pleasant busihow much support Mount Pleasant ness community over the past gives to the business community,” month in an effort to raise support she said. for chamber programs for another The TRC Campaign year. teams were led by Shannon Nor“Unity makes us stronger together,” he told the crowd at 80 Acres that represented the five teams and more than 30 volunteers who solicited sponsorships, membership renewals and new chamber members since the campaign kicked off Feb. 6. “It’s a neat town where a lot of volunteers join together to accomplish common goals,” he said. “Having that kind of unity is sometimes pretty rare.” Capps’ job as campaign chair was to motivate the teams to strive for even greater success than the campaign’s inaugural year. He told them during the cam- fleet of Titus Regional Medical paign to not just be thermometers, Center, who is the current Chairbut to be thermostats; to change man of the Chamber; Brad Lowry the temperature in a room with of Pilgrim Bank, Jey Yancey of positivity and a vision for Mount Offenhauser Insurance, Troy Pleasant. “We want to be atmosSellers of Luminant and Danny phere changers,” he said. Muskrat of Guaranty Bank & Trust. The campaign surpassed The highest producing its goal of $130,000 on the last day team was Sellers’ team, followed of the campaign. The teams also by Muskrat’s team, Lowry’s team, generated 30 new chamber mem- Yancey’s team and Norfleet’s bers, while boasting a nearly 90 team. Kim Crabb of Diamond C percent retention rate among its Trailers claimed first place as top 2013 membership. Among those, individual producer. Jey Yancey most either chose to stay at the took second place and Kristy same level of sponsorship or do Crooks of Guaranty Bank & Trust additional sponsorships. The 2013 was third. campaign met its goal of $115,000 The heart of the TRC is and generated 86 new members. to support the events, programs, “Steve Capps set the networking and business promogoal and the standard even higher tion that the chamber hosts from this year and the volunteers met March 1 through Feb. 28 of the

next year. It allows the Chamber to map out a complete year of chamber activities and gauge the success of an event through how sought after the sponsorship opportunities are. The most important aspect, Curry said, is that it allows the Chamber to “promote and support the membership more. It gives us lead time for events so we can put greater emphasis on the sponsor and better support our members.” Members choose sponsorships in a wide range of activities such as leadership development series, business workshops or the Shop Local events that are

to start printing copies of every edition to make sure those advertisers are getting the most bang for their buck.” Norfleet said she was thrilled to see how many people from the community came together to make the campaign a success. “It was only five teams, but then you see the outreach that those teams and their members were able to make. They made connections that the Chamber alone could never have made. The TRC Campaign gives us the ability to have that reach and influence and to unite so many people,” Norfleet said. She said the diversity of businesses that were brought into the chamber was also impressive. “It’s not just one or two businesses that always give. Some of the people that came here tonight are from those businesses that haven’t been engaged before and that’s what really gets you excited,” she said. “I think this changes some of their perceptions about what the chamber is about and builds stronger teams and stronger businesses. ‘When you succeed, I succeed and vice versa.’ It helps build that feel good community that designed to raise sales tax reveyou are proud to be a part of.” nue. The Eat Local campaign beA third motivational asgins in April and the Grow Local pect of the campaign that Capps campaign kicks off this summer. encouraged was that we “reap One of the most sought what we sow.” after sponsorships is the Friday “That’s a natural and a Burger Party which runs from April spiritual principal. So, when we through October, held on the first sow into our community, we can Friday of the month. expect it to grow,” he told the vol“Members get to come to unteers Thursday night. “I think the Chamber and network and that’s what makes Mount Pleasant spend time with other members,” such a great town. There’s a lot of Curry said. “We could sell 50 of sowing going on and I think there’s those a year.” a lot of reaping going on.” The Business spotlight and the bi-monthly Mount Pleasant Business Report magazine are other popular sponsorships. “We had an increase in ads in the Business Report this year and we’re excited about that,” Curry said. “This year we are going

The Mount PleasantTitus County Chamber of Commerce served up a new event that satisfied the avid runner and whet the palates of Texas wine connoisseurs. The Everything Texas Uncorked Ranch Run & Wine Festival debuted Oct. 11 at Priefert Ranch. The Go Texancertified event promoted Texas -made, Texas-grown products. 225 runners registered for the Ranch Run, which included three levels, a 15K run for the serious runner, a 5K run for the fitness runner and a 1K run

for kids that led off by horses. The run was being managed by Run Time, a professional race company based in Dallas. There was also a Kids Corral where kids could to dig up bones. The wine festival featured wine tastings from eight Texas wineries, arts and crafts vendors, food and live entertainment. The goal of the new event is to promote the Chamber’s ‘Everything Texas’ brand and to promote Texas ranch life in general. “This event is the highlight of what portrays ‘Everything Texas’ with the scenic views from the ranch – the trees, the pastures, the cows - as you’re

running and sipping your wine, said Chamber CEO Faustine Curry. “That’s what makes Texas special.” The Chamber is excited to be able to bring the unique event to Mount Pleasant, especially in light of the city recently being named the No. 11 tourist destination in the state. “With wine vineyards and Texas wines being such a big industry and agricultural product in Texas, we feel that this will fit perfectly with our ‘Everything Texas’ branding and the tourism award,” Curry said. Vendors at the festival offered unique Texas or

wine-related products. For example, Sweet shop USA offered chocolates in cases that fit over wine bottles. The Wreckin’ Shop sold Texasinspired furniture and Hamilton’s Jewelers brought its cheese boards, cutting boards and wine taps. To complement the wine tastings, the Texas Gulf Shrimpers Association and the Southwest Dairy Farmers Association provided shrimp and cheese samples. “We’re excited about the opportunities that this new event brings to Mount Pleasant and for visitors to explore Everything Texas,” Curry said.

of all employment. The proclamation also declared each Tuesday Mayor Paul Meriwether during the month of April as “Don't proclaimed April Shop Titus County Cook Tuesday.” month as the Chamber kicked off “Chamber CEO Faustine its “Eat Local” challenge, part of Curry said through the Shop Local the Shop Titus County initiative. Initiative and its four campaigns – The campaign is a joint community Eat Local, Grow Local, Drive Local effort dedicated to increasing visiand Christmas Local -- the Chambility and prosperity of Mount ber is instrumental in “keeping Pleasant's locally owned, indedollars here at home in Mount pendent businesses, which acPleasant.” count for an estimated 70 percent

During the Eat Local Challenge, diners who eat at chamber member restaurants save their receipts and turn them into the Chamber office for a chance to win a grand prize at the end of the month. Diners who eat out on Tuesdays during the month can also enter a weekly drawing for a gift card to a local restaurant.

Local campaign. The market kicked off in early June and continued through September. The weekly market was held on Thursday evenings at the The Chamber’s “Everything Texas Fresh” Farmer’s Chamber parking lot. The unique market included local vendors sellMarket proved to be a huge sucing fresh fruits and vegetables, cess as part of the June Grow

canned food items, local honey, salsa and plants as well as live entertainment and a local food truck vendor serving fresh-made, authentic Mexican tacos, which gave the market a festival atmosphere. The crowd also learned valuable sustainable farming tech-

niques at the market’s “Farming in a Minute” segments taught by Northeast Texas Community College Agriculture Director Rene McCracken.

benefits of purchasing and consuming locally grown food directly from the source. . “Farmer’s markets are The Farm to Fork Tour the primary source to get fresh and Dinner, part of June’s Grow goods. All produce and fruit in the Local campaign, gave residents an grocery store have been proinsider’s view of Greer Farm in cessed in some form and sprayed Daingerfield and a taste of the with different things to preserve “Farm to Fork” fresh, locally-grown freshness, including some organic foods movement. The farm tour products,” Sid Greer said. “For a took participants through the piclarge part of the year it’s pretty turesque grounds of Greer Farm. easy to find fresh food within 30 The Farm to Fork Dinner gave miles of where you live. The more guests a first-hand understanding you buy local, the more that farmof the environmental and health ers will take a risk on and grow for

the local market. If no one supports them, they will find outlets away from home or not grow at all.” The farm tour and dinner wrapped up the Chamber’s second annual Grow Local campaign in June, part of the overall Shop Local initiative. “We decided to have a farm-to-fork event to both showcase our local producers but also to bring attention to where our food comes from,” Curry said. She said one of the agriculture committee's goals is to educate the local community on the importance of agriculture.

month of September. The campaign encourages people to shop locally for their next vehicle. The event has resulted in The Chamber and local an increase in sales for local dealdealerships held another successful partnership with the third annual erships in September each year, according to Chamber CEO Drive Local campaign during the

Faustine Curry. Social media drives the campaign as people post pictures and videos of themselves test driving a new or used vehicle at participating Chambermember dealerships for a chance to win a drawing for $1,000.

spirit right here in town.” The Chamber encourThe Chamber got everyaged residents and businesses to one in the mood for Christmas as it put out their Shop Local signs and launched its newest Shop Titus take advantage of special opportuCounty campaign. Christmas Local nities for holiday shopping. ran from Nov. 24 through Dec. 26. Events held during the “The Christmas Local promotion month-long focus included the encourages shopping locally and Downtown Open House sponsored highlights the different things hapby the Mount Pleasant Downtown pening in Mount Pleasant during Merchants. The Chamberthe season,” said Chamber CEO sponsored Everything Texas Deck Faustine Curry. “It reminds people the Halls, featured approximately that they can get in the Christmas 60 vendors and attracted approxi-

mately 1,500 shoppers from several states a looking for unique gifts, handmade crafts, stocking stuffers and Christmas décor. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday were also promoted. The month wrapped up with the City of Mount Pleasant’s annual Christmas on the Square, which included an ice skating rink, a chili cook-off, vendors and the annual Mount Pleasant Rotary Christmas Parade.

The winner of the $1,000 grand prize, announced at the Chamber’s Friday Burger Party in October, was Stephen Currey.

The Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee implemented new marching orders in 2014 as it prepared for the 2015-2016 Texas Legislative session. Prior to drafting the new legislative agenda, the Chamber board had to approve a revision to the committee’s Guiding Principles, adding a fourth principle: The new initiative is also part of the Chamber’s effort to become accredited by the United State Chamber of Commerce.

A Chamber email blast is a good example of the committee’s stepped up advocacy role. The email supported Propositions 1 and 2 on the November 2014 election ballot in Titus County regarding an increase in maintenance taxes of 10 cents per $100 valuation of property with the Northeast Texas Community College district and issuing $1.9 million in bonds for proposed improvements in infrastructure at NTCC. The email blast also explained how the propositions would affect homeowners’ property tax bills: “For a $100,000 home, this will increase the property taxes by $3 per month,” it stated. Another example is a letter the committee drafted to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding concerns over its controversial clean power plan. The EPA rule aims to reduce emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by the year 2030. “The utilities have

asked the city and chambers The committee to submit letters of support so hosted a reception for local that we can continue to have and state elected officials in realizable and affordable November. The reception power in our region, state was a chance to thank the and country,” she said. officials for their service and Harland also said the coman opportunity for residents mittee was expecting a reto speak with them about sponse from the Texas Water issues and concerns. Development Board to the The committee also Marvin Nichols Reservoir began organizing the Mount plan. Pleasant Day in Austin trip for “That is another issue that members of the 2015 Leaderyou’ll see something coming ship Mount Pleasant class, out from the chamber. The and community and business committee won’t necessarily leaders. take a position or advocate “Those who make the trip on that, but rather educate really get a good understandbecause there are many ing of not only the layout of members on both sides of the Capitol and how things this discussion,” she said. work in state government. It Harland said the also is a good opportunity for committee is meeting month- Mount Pleasant to be recogly and plans to meet more nized on the floor of the Texfrequently during the twoas House and Senate,” Haryear legislative session as land said. needed “to be able to Chamber Principles respond and advocate if something comes out The Chamber supports economic during the session that development initiatives which enhance needs immediate attenthe competitiveness of new and tion.” existing businesses. She said the committee plans to work The Chamber supports equity in tax on behalf of Chamber and fee structure that returns benefit members to make to the business community and Mount Pleasant and promotes continued economic growth Titus County a in the region. business friendly environment The Chamber must ensure that the and encourpublic education system, in age economic partnership with the business growth and community, prepares all students to community development. be successful in the workplace. The Chamber supports infrastructure initiatives that are beneficial to the community and Titus County.

By Lou Antonelli, Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune The Mount Pleasant/ Titus County Chamber of Commerce and the Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corporation co-hosted the “State of the Economy” luncheon in December. The luncheon, held at a packed Mount Pleasant Civic Center, featured keynote speaker Pia Orrenius, vice president and senior economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Orrenius is a labor economist who focuses on regional economic growth and demographic change. Unlike fellow economists at Federal Reserve banks across the country, Orrenius said she’s seeing a strong recovery from the recession. “We’ve outperformed the rest of the country by far,” she said. “This region was the last in and the first out.” The local economy – Texas dominates the local Federal Reserve district – is up 3.7 percent

so far this year from last year. “This is the highest growth rate since the 1990s. We’ve seen 350,000 new jobs this year,” she said. In response to critics who saw Texas’ job growth is made up lf “bad jobs”, she presented an analysis which breaks the national range of salaries into quarters. Looking at the two middle quarters, nationally there was a 2.8 drop overall in the proportion of new jobs created On the other, of all Texas’ jobs 14.1 percent were created in the second quartile and 27.8 percent in the third quartile. One thing that may be attracting newcomers is that Texas is still creating middle-class jobs, she said. Factors that helped Texas weather the recession so well included a strong energy sector, healthy banks, strong exports, and - very importantly – not having a housing bubble beforehand. “Housing values didn’t go up like they did in other parts of the coun-

try,” she said. “But then, they didn’t crash.” Only 3 percent of homes in Texas are “underwater” – where the homeowner owes more than the house is worth. In the Nevada and Florida the same figures are 26 and 24 percent. “And that’s now. At the height of the Recession, over half the homes in Nevada were underwater,” Orrenius said. Improved energy production ranks Texas, alone (as if it was its own country) as the 10th largest oil producer in the world. Horizontal drilling as well as “fracking” means the state was producing 3.2 million of barrels of oil per day as of September. The state also ranks third in natural gas production. The state gets 10.7 percent of its revenue from oil severance taxes, she noted. Despite the strong energy sector, Texas’ exports are very diversified, and include high tech products. Because of Texas’ strong economy, Texas now gets more residents through in-migration –

people moving in from other parts of the country – than from overseas, she said. The only drawbacks to Texas’s economic recovery are “growing pains”, including labor shortages in major metropolitan areas, bottlenecks in energy delivery, rising home prices, and strains on the infrastructure, she said.

The inaugural Everything Texas Golf Open teed off in late June. The new tournament featured a lineup of family fun and contests and an 18-hole, 4-person golf scramble. The turnout for the event at the Country Club of Mount Pleasant was better than expected, with 29 teams in the Golf Open, 30 teams in the Everything Texas Shootout and 50 people in the putting contest. East Texas Children’s Dentistry team won the 1st Place Net trophy. While the 1st Place Gross winner was the Priefert Manufacturing team. “The Chamber has been asked for a couple of years to create a nice golf tournament and some of

the tournaments in the area had stopped, so we decided it was time to start one again,” said Chamber CEO Faustine Curry. Curry said the new tournament adds to the Chamber’s “Everything Texas” branding and provides another networking opportunity for Chamber members. It also serves as a fundraiser for projects the Chamber is involved in. “The Chamber functions in so many ways; business development, promoting businesses, education, and governmental affairs as well as injecting our own money into the community and it takes funds to do that,” said Brad Lowry, the tourna-

ment chair. “So this is a fundraiser for the Chamber and it is also a way to bring the community together.” Because the tournament is a fundraiser, Lowry said the teams played for bragging rights and trophies rather than for cash prizes. There were also raffles held each day. “We know that people don’t always show up for trophies and door prizes, so what we’ve done is create what we think is a really cool Friday night pre-tournament event,” Lowry said. The Friday event – also at the Country Club – will include cash prizes in a putting contest and the Everything Texas Shootout, which

features an elimination style format with 2-person teams. Played on the 10th and 18th holes, which are lighted, two teams play one hole and the losing team is eliminated after each hole. The two teams with the lowest scores left at the end of the night walk away with the prize money. The new tournament was added as a sponsorship opportunity for local businesses during the recent Total Resource Campaign. “We had a big turnout through the campaign and we have high hopes for this event,” Lowry said. “We will keep making improvements and hopefully keep this thing rolling year after year.

The business and education communities in Titus County came together in September for the 2nd annual State of Education Luncheon. The address featured brief updates from the leaders of all the local education institutions including Winfield ISD Supt. Rhonda Burchinal, Harts Bluff ISD Supt. Dr. Lyle DuBus, Chapel Hill ISD Supt. Mark Levesque, Mount Pleasant ISD Supt. Judd Marshall, NTCC President Dr. Brad Johnson and Region 8 ESC Executive Director Dr. David Fitts. Keynote speaker Dr. Emily Cutrer, President of Texas A&M Texarkana, addressed education in Texas, telling the packed crowd that the greatest challenge facing public education today is the “skills gap” between what

employers need and what potential employees have. A recent survey of businesses was disheartening. “Only 11 percent of employers believe college grads are ready to go to work for them,” Cutrer said. Chamber CEO Faustine Curry said is a real concern among school systems about the trend. Students are graduating with their diplomas and degrees and they do not have all of the skills needed to move into the workforce, she said. Cutrer said the problem is caused in large part by the increased demand in the workplace for higher education. A recent survey shows 85 percent of positions in the U.S. need some kind of postsecondary training and education. That figure was

less than 50 percent in 1990. Cutrer noted that years ago businesses routinely provided training for employees, while today only 20 percent of companies offer training. “We need to fill in the gap,” she said. Just 41 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have a four-year degree, while another eight percent have at least an associate’s degree. The nature of the workplace is also changing in the 21st century. Studies show the average employee entering the workforce now will change careers seven times. “This has enormous implications for colleges and universities,” she said. Cutrer said higher education must use all teaching modalities, including problem-based,

hands-on, online and prior learning assessment. Curry said the link between education and business is vital to the success of the local economy. “The kids that come through the educational system are the future. Without needed education, it will be hard for businesses to fill their workforce needs. Because of that vital connection, we feel it is important to showcase the future of education for the coming year to the business community,” Curry said. Lou Antonelli, Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune, contributed to this report.

The Chamber boasts eight active committees led by members that bring leadership and expertise in their fields to the wide array of chamber activities they oversee. – Jey Yancey, Chairman The Tourism Committee’s purpose is to raise awareness for Mount Pleasant and bring in events and business that would attract more visitors and longer overnight stays. The committee’s goal is to promote Mount Pleasant as a destination city. – Rene McCracken, Chairman The Agriculture Committee focuses on helping agri-businesses increase their customer base and improve their sustainability through education and networking. The committee is responsible for: Grow Local Campaign NTCC Farmer’s Market Everything Texas Fest Farmer’s Market Assist Main Street Downtown Farmer’s Market Establish a regular farmer’s market at the Chamber – David Hooper, Chairman The Marketing Committee meets to develop different methods to educate and inform the membership of the benefits of belonging to the Chamber. The committee is responsible for: Shop Local Initiative, which includes Eat Local, Grow Local, Wear Local and Drive Local. The first two Eat Local and Wear Local campaigns generated $17,000 in sales recorded by the Chamber in sales receipts used for the contest giveaways. Quarterly Business Breakfasts Friday Burger Parties, held in May through October. Deck the Halls, held in mid-November, which features a wide variety of local vendors offering hand-crafts gifts for the Christmas season. Customer Service Award, a quarterly award recognizing a local business’ employee for exemplary customer service. 212 Award, which recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond to give to the Chamber. The idea is that water doesn‘t boil until it reaches 212 degrees. Production of the annual Chamber directory, which includes all chamber members and features tourist information for visitors as well as information for new residents or potential new businesses. Fright-tober, held throughout the month of October, features a number of fun activities to boost tourism and sales for local merchants.

After Hours Blender, a networking “Blender” that is held after 5 p.m. and usually sponsored and hosted by a local business. – Matt Klump, Chairman The Business Services Committee provides networking opportunities and educational and informational seminars for Chamber members. The committee is responsible for: Chamber 101, held twice a year, an orientation and networking meeting for new Chamber members. Speed Dating for Business, a fun networking opportunity over lunch Quarterly Business Breakfast Technology and other business development workshops – Amy Hinton, Chairman The Education Committee’s purpose is to bring the education and business community together through events and networking opportunities and to present opportunities for them to work together toward common goals. The committee is responsible for: State of Education Luncheon New Teacher Breakfast Academic Blankets – Jennifer Harland, Chairman The Governmental Affairs Committee keeps Chamber members informed on public affairs, governmental and legislative issues that could impact their businesses. The committee is responsible for: Drafting policy position statements, distributed to Chamber members. Actions & Advocacy Newsletter, published bi-weekly during the Texas Legislative session.

To build economic prosperity by engaging businesses and the community.

We are “Everything Texas”

The “Mount Pleasant is Everything Texas” brand tells visitors to the Northeast Texas area that Mount Pleasant offers a wide variety of natural resources, activities, attractions and events that embody the uniqueness of the Lone Star State.


– Karen Neely, Chairman The Chamber Ambassadors group includes more than 30 members who promote the Chamber and Chamber membership to the community. The group is responsible for: Recruiting new members Coordinating/attending grand openings and ribbon cuttings Visiting Chamber members Assisting with Chamber banquet, events and other chamber activities

The Voice of Business - Advocating for public policy to benefit business, economic growth and our community. Focus On Our Members - Serving the needs of business through programs, events, services and connections. Tourism and Promotion - Promoting tourism and our community. Foster Leadership - Identify, develop and position leaders in our Chamber and community. Chamber Excellence - Maintain a dynamic chamber through governance, management and resources.

Mount Pleasant/Titus County Chamber of Commerce Copyright 2015

2014 Annual Report  
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