FARMINGTON — The economy's downturn and a shift in industries have prompted many changes in Farmington over the last few years.
And just as the face of Farmington is changing, so is the focus of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce.
The nonprofit's board will discuss its new focus during an October strategic planning meeting.
"Our board hasn't had a strategic planning session since 2008," said Audra Winters, the chamber's president and CEO. "We're hoping to take a closer look at what the chamber is doing and the direction we should be going."
The chamber needs to assess whether it's supporting its mission and determine if the activities and sub-committees it sponsors are still needed, Winters said.
The chamber, which started in 1953, consists of volunteers who coordinate commerce, industry and professional activities to maintain a healthy business base in the community.
In addition to the strategic planning session, Winters said the chamber also wants feedback from the public. The chamber has developed a three-question online survey that solicits the public's opinion on the chamber's future direction.
"We would really like to hear from the public because the more options we get, the better," Winters said.
A focused analysis of the organization's mission and future direction is needed, said Mary Rogers, the chamber's board chairman and co-owner of Carpet One in Farmington.
Other chambers are more involved in economic development, she said, and the challenge for Farmington's chamber will be to identify its niche in the community.
"Many cities' chambers do what the Convention and Visitors' Bureau and economic groups like E>P do," Rogers said. "We're lucky to have these other organizations, and we work incredibly well with them. They have better resources, and it would be counterproductive to duplicate what they're doing."
Rogers hopes the board and the public will determine if the chamber should continue to focus on events and fundraising or if there's something more the organization can do to promote local businesses.
Rogers said the chamber may examine offering free seminars for members and taking a closer look at unemployment.
"We need to see where our focus should be five years down the road," she said.
The chamber also hopes to educate both businesses and the public on its services.
The chamber hosts the Christmas parade and fundraisers such as the Chili Cook-Off on Oct. 26. It also sponsors programs for newcomers and hosts evening events to promote networking. One of the most visible components of the chamber is the Red Coats group, which celebrates the opening of new businesses with ribbon cuttings and grand openings.
Winters said streamlining the chamber's direction should help Farmington deal with challenges, including an uptick in people leaving the area and an uncertain economy.
Rogers agrees that the self-assessment is overdue.
"We really need a direction right now," she said. "That's why we want feedback on what we are doing well and what businesses would like to see us improve on so we can improve the climate for businesses in our area."