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From volunteer to president

Schulz reaches 25 years with chamber

By Angie Landsverk

This month marks a milestone for Terri Schulz.

On Aug. 16, she is celebrating 25 years with the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.

“When I started, there were three staff members,” she said.

That included Schulz, who was hired to be the chamber’s first full-time executive director.

Her title eventually changed to president.

Schulz’s involvement in the organization is how she ended up working for it.

The Waupaca native was working as a manager and buyer for a clothing store in the community when she became involved in the chamber.

“I served on committees and eventually served on the board of directors and all the officer positions,” she said.

Schulz was on the executive committee when her predecessor resigned.

“We talked about how we were going to move forward,” she said.

Off the cuff, Schulz said, “Maybe I should apply.”

A board member called her that evening to ask if she was serious.

Schulz discussed the idea with her husband Jim and decided she was.

“They offered me the position, and I accepted,” she said.

Schulz thinks it was a benefit to be familiar with the volunteer side of the chamber before becoming its executive director.

“There’s a lot of turnover in the position, typically,” she said. “In a chamber, all the members are your bosses.”

As a face of the chamber, Schulz is always representing the organization.

“I go to the grocery store and people stop and ask me questions,” she said. “When I leave work, I’m still working.”

The chamber’s role is to support the businesses in the community, Schulz said.

“If we have a community that is doing great, businesses do well,” she said. “We like to see businesses that are everything from a mom and pop to somebody who employs 2,000 people.”

The chamber supports businesses in a variety of ways.

“We try to do programming that helps them, everything from networking to education,” Schulz said. “Chambers have become focused on advocacy.”

During the past 25 years, there have been many changes in the local chamber.

Today, Schulz is one of five employees.

“We had one Tandy computer when I started,” she said. “Now, we spend about 85 percent of our time on the computer.”

The chamber’s relationship with the city has grown, and it offers more programs, Schulz said.

“When I started, the chamber was more retail oriented, like sidewalk sales and events,” she said. “We still do some of that, but the city has grown and others have stepped forward.”

The number of businesses involved in the chamber has increased.

“There were about 225 when I started. Now, there’s about 360,” Schulz said. “We’re fortunate to have that strong support from our businesses.”

In addition to working with city officials more, the chamber also works more closely with the Waupaca School District today.

The high school’s apprenticeship program has grown, she said.

Schulz said students have the opportunity to see and learn about jobs in the community.

Employers have become more open to showing what their needs are, she said.

What is becoming an issue for many employers is that Baby Boomers are retiring and not as many people are entering the workforce, Schulz said.

“There’s been a focus at school now about the need to fill trades,” she said.

Schulz said Waupaca has a diverse economy, and she encourages people to “to do as much in town as you can.”

Local businesses also support the high school, churches and organizations with donations.

She reminds people to reciprocate that.

Schulz said Waupaca’s chamber is highly regarded in the state.

“We can’t do everything the larger ones do,” she said. “But we are pretty involved and in the forefront of other chambers our size in the state.”

Schulz likes how diversified her work at the chamber is.

“One day I can be talking to someone looking to find a home for a business, to someone who needs directions to a grocery store,” she said. “I think that’s really what I love. And you get to work with so many nice people.”

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