December 2017 Newsletter
The holiday season is upon us and many of us will be celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice and other special days during this time with our families and friends. The season is made all the more beautiful as our mountains and valleys are sprinkled with beautiful white snow creating a winter wonderland in our region that is second to none!

As gift giving commences, we encourage everyone to support their local merchants by purchasing gifts and gift certificates from our local businesses. The power of your dollar has a great impact on our communities. The season is also a great time to thank our local business owners for their commitment to our communities and for their service. At the Chamber, we wish to thank everyone who has made 2017 such a successful year. Our membership has increased to 165 members this year and many of our events have seen record or near-record attendance. We look forward to 2018 and have many plans to help make our businesses and communities continue to thrive. We thank those businesses who have chosen to renew their memberships and wish to give a very special thank yo to those who have provided additional financial sponsorship to assure that our events are successful. A very happy holiday to everyone and wishing you peace and happiness in the new year!

Erik

Erik Volk
Executive Director
Upcoming Events
Please visit our WEB page at www.cohase.org for more details on any of these events and a listing of other events in our area. Details of the Featured Events listed below appear at the bottom of our WEB page.

December 21 - Cohase Young Professionals Happy Hour, Bradford, VT
December 22 & 29 - Pizza, Popcorn & Movie Night, Groton, VT
December 23 - Ugly Sweater Party at Room 111, Woodsville, NH
December 25 - Community Christmas Dinner, Bradford, VT
January 1 - 4th Annual New Year's Day Kirtan and Music Night, Bradford, VT
January 1 - First Day Fat Bike Demos, Rides & Snowshoe Hike
January 18 - Grow Your Business with Digital Marketing Workshop, Bradford, VT
January 20-21 - Winter Wildllife Tracking intensive, Roots School, Bradford, VT
January 21 - UVTA Skate-A-Thon, Fairlee, VT
January 23- Cohase Chamber Annual Meeting, Haverhill Corner, NH
January 25-28 - Ski Dance Weekend, Fairlee, VT
Member Moment - All Access Infotech
This month we were pleased to speak with Ray Coffin III, owner of All Access Infotech. All Access Infotech is located at 1776 Route 5 North in Fairlee, Vermont. All Access Infotech offers IT Managed Services, IT Consulting Services, VoIP Solutions and Cloud Services. They are dedicated to helping businesses and organizations of all types organize and manage their technology. All Access Infotech can be reached by phone in Vermont at (802) 331-1900, in New Hampshire at (603) 353-9800 or toll free at (877) 550-2248. You can also visit them online at www.allaccessinfotech.com or email Ray directly at rcoffin@allaccessinfotech.com.

How and when did you start your business?

I started the business in 2008, but have been in the IT industry since 1992. I worked for different companies doing IT support and consulting prior to opening the business. I was also in the Vermont National Guard where I was involved in the Data Security field and became a Data Security instructor for the government contractor who was providing government data security services. I decided at that point to start consulting full time and started the business in Orford, New Hampshire with just myself and a handful of clients. We now have six employees and we have recently opened a satellite office in West Lebanon. We have a lot of clients down south and this gives them the option to visit us down in West Lebanon and not have to come all the way up to Fairlee. We service businesses of all sizes including medical, dental, physical therapy, legal, town governments, schools, non-profits and all kinds of other businesses. 

What services to do you provide?
We offer network cloud solutions, consulting and managed services, which is our core competency. We can actually serve as a company’s IT department and manage all aspects of their IT needs including helping them plan and budget for their IT services. We also offer data security services, wireless solutions, networking, Voice Over IP and disaster recovery services. Right now we are helping customers to migrate to the cloud through the Office 365 solution. Just recently, we successfully migrated all the information to the cloud for one of our nonprofit clients. They have over 900 employees. So, it was quite the project. We were able to centralize all of their data to make it easier for their employees to access the information since they work all across New England in many different locations. We also helped them get Office 365 for free due to their nonprofit status which helped them realize some great savings.
We are also focused on data security and integrate data security into all of our services. I am a CIISP, which stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. In order to receive that certification, you must take an exam which takes about 6 months to prepare for, be vetted by another professional, spend years in the field and then be selected by the Board for certification.  

What is your biggest business challenge?
Our largest challenge, other than the lack of high speed internet availability in some of our regions, is finding qualified candidates. We find a lot of our candidates within our own communities by asking around and asking technical people we know if they have any technical friends. We also used LinkedIn a lot to identify potential candidates, not so much to poach employees from other companies but to see where people are graduating from, who is interested in technology and so forth. Our current employees come from all around the region including from Springfield, Wentworth, Norwich and also locally right here in Fairlee. However, finding qualified people remains our biggest challenge.

Did you grow up in the area?
I grew up right here in Fairlee. My dad, Ray Jr., was a small business owner in town and owned Coffin’s Garage which was a Texaco station where Wing’s Market is now. The building that currently houses my business was previously my grandfather Ray Senior’s gift shop. He used to sell moccasins, maple candy, maple syrup and all kinds of other items. He was a little “frugal” so when we took over the building, we painted it, insulated it, and transformed it into its current state.

Any advice for small and medium size businesses in our region?
I would say to really take a look at your information systems and carefully look at the IT vendors and review their fees, especially if you are considering moving to a cloud solution. Once you have put your data in somebody’s cloud system, it can be really difficult to move it to another company.  If you have not yet moved to the cloud, it is something I really recommend from a data centralization standpoint as well as from a data security and disaster recovery standpoint.  

I also recently completed the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program and highly recommend anyone who operates a small business to apply. It covers every aspect of running a small business. They bring in specialists covering everything from IT to hiring to accounting. The greatest benefit of the program is you get to work with 15-17 business leaders and share knowledge with each other. At the end of the program, you will have a completed growth plan to guide your business into the future.
Annual Meeting Is Coming on January 23rd!
We are very much looking forward to our Annual Meeting this year. Please note that due to the availability of one of our award recipients, we have changed the date of the meeting to Tuesday, January 23rd ! We have also changed from our normal venue this year. This year's event will be held at Alumni Hall in historic Haverhill Corner village, located at 75 Court Street. We have a delicious buffet planned!

We are also very excited to announce the winners of the Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year awards! It was a difficult decision for our Nominating Committee as this year we had many many nominations for both awards and lots of well-deserving candidates. Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank has been selected as the 2017 Business of the Year and Marvin Harrison has been selected as 2017 Citizen of the Year. We look forward to presenting both awards at the Annual Meeting and hope you can come to celebrate!
Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank is being recognized for their support of the region’s communities, their role as a premiere regional employer and for their commitment to innovation. They regularly and enthusiastically support many local and regional organizations, both providing substantial financial support as well as helping to supply volunteers for various efforts. Their importance as a financial partner to many businesses and individuals throughout the region is essential to helping our communities thrive and grow.
Marvin Harrison was selected for his role as a strong and admired community leader. In addition to being a key force behind the formation and growth of the Cohase Chamber of Commerce, Marvin has also provided his time, leadership and guidance to numerous local and regional efforts. He is heralded throughout the Cohase region as an essential partner in many social, economic and creative endeavors. His commitment to our communities, his experience and his positive attitude are all to be applauded.

Tickets are $25 each. For more details about the event and registration options, please click here to visit our Annual Meeting WEB site page. On that page, you will be able to download a printable version of the invitation, purchase the tickets via credit card (for an additional processing fee of $2.03 per ticket), or register online and pay later. We will also be mailing invitations to all of our members via postal mail.
Results of Our Workshop Survey
Thanks to those of you who completed our recent Workshop Survey to help us identify the workshop topics of interest to you, the most convenient places to hold the workshops and the most appropriate times for workshops. We will strive to schedule workshops that fit the criteria you have helped us establish.

Below are the top 5 topics of interest based on the survey results:

  1. Social Media
  2. Digital Marketing
  3. Branding Your Business
  4. Quickbooks
  5. Increasing Exposure for your WEB site

You also told us that the most convenient day/time for workshops would be Wednesdays or Thursdays from 9AM-12PM. Bradford was the most common desired location to hold a workshop followed closely by Newbury, Fairlee and Woodsville. Most people also indicated that they would be willing to pay between $15 and $30 for a workshop.
Don't Forget Dues are Due!
By now, all members should have received their membership renewal materials. Please make every effort to send in your dues for next year by December 31, 2017. Prompt payment of dues allows us to adequately plan for the coming year so we appreciate your prompt processing of payment. As an added incentive, businesses who have paid by December 31st and who attend our Annual Meeting will be eligible to receive a $200 Chamber gift certificate!

Our Chamber dues continue to be among the lowest in the nation. Despite a comparatively low dues structure, we are still able to have a huge impact on our region. Your dues allow us to continue these efforts.

If you would like to defer your dues until the summer, please note that on your membership form when you return it to us and we will invoice you later in the year. Also, we have had a number of businesses ask us to bill them for additional sponsorships amounts for specific events later in the year, so that the monies can be allocated in 2018. We are also happy to do that. Again, please just make a note to that effect on your membership renewal form.

As always thank you for your continued support!
2017 Economic Summit Highlights
The 2017 Economic Summit was held at River Bend Career & Technical Center on Monday, December 4, 2017 and attended by over 30 Selectboard members, legislators and community leaders. After receiving reports from our member towns, we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Chef Andre and students from the River Bend Culinary program. During the meal, each table discussed what they believed to be the top 3 regional economic challenges. The small groups then reported back to the full group with their top three items. Once all groups had reported, each individual had a chance to personally vote on what they thought were the top two challenges.

As a result of that voting, the top 5 challenges identified were:

  1. High speed internet and cell phone coverage.
  2. Tax burden on businesses
  3. Affordable/Available housing
  4. Increasing exposure for vocational/technial education
  5. A Comprehensive Regional Marketing plan

The Chamber will take these results into account as we plan for the new year and try to facilitate further discussions and/or on seek to implement solutions to these issues.

To continue discussion, we have also set up a Listserv mailing list as a forum to discuss regional economic issues. If you wish to be added to this list, please email us at cohasechamber@gmail.com and we will be happy to add you. The list will allow you to send and receive information from/to Summit attendees without needing to have individual email addresses. Look for increasing activity and discussion on the list as we enter 2018.
Grow Your Business With Digital Marketing Workshop
Many small businesses find themselves seeking the right strategies, tools, and tactics to make their marketing efforts as effective as possible. Unfortunately, between websites, print, email, mobile target markets, not to mention whatever new social network is rolling out this month—there’s a lot to juggle.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to build marketing campaigns that drive action, organize these campaigns, choose advertising options to reach your target market without draining resources, and coordinate your chosen marketing venues with cohesive messaging. Focus will be on the DIY marketer— including blogging, effective email marketing, video, and social media.

The workshop will be held on Thursday, January 18th from 3-4 PM at River Bend Career & Technical Center. The workshop is FREE for Chamber members. Pre-registration is not required but preferred as seats may be limited. To register and for more information, click here.