Chamber Blog

Ruth Ann Hanson, Chamber Area Director
Ruth Ann Hanson
Lisa Paxton, Chamber CEO
Lisa Paxton
Kathi Nagorski
Kathi Nagorski
Shannon Janco
Shannon Janco

Bridging International Connections: Indonesian, South African Students Receive Business Exposure Through Chamber

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber has taken on a bit of an international flair over the past several months.

Thanks in part to an international scholarship program combined with a tremendous working relationship with Central Lakes College; two aspiring business majors are making connections through the Chamber’s Member Outreach Committee.

Bradley Van Der Zandt, 22, of Cape Town, South Africa; and Jaka Mahendra, 23, of Probolinggo, East Java, Indonesia; have been in the Lakes Area since August 2010 as part of the US Department of State’s Community College International Development program, a program aimed at providing opportunities for building global relationships that strengthen educational programs and promote economic development. Both young men were chosen to come to the United States on a scholarship to attend a community college and serve an internship in their respective communities in relation to leadership.

Bradley and Jaka are two of nine CCID students currently residing in the Lakes Area and attending Central Lakes College. Although unfamiliar to each other prior to August, both men shared a common interest in business. After arriving in Brainerd and visiting with CLC advisors, both men were encouraged to connect with the Chamber to learn more about local business relationships, leadership and opportunities.

Jeri Hughes, Events Coordinator with the Chamber, said she was contacted by Joan Jenkins and Pat Swarthout from CLC in regard to the students and their interest in getting involved locally. Hughes said the Chamber was more than eager to take the students on through an internship. Both Bradley and Jaka attend monthly Chamber committee meetings and networking events where they have an opportunity to network and learn, first hand, how local businesses operate.

“Basically we observe how businesses and organizations work, take some notes and implement them in our daily lives,” Jaka said, following a recent Chamber Member Outreach meeting. “Someday we’ll be the guys sitting in this kind of meeting.”

Both men are already well on their way to reaching their business aspirations. Bradley received his business management degree in Cape Town before coming to the US, and has a strong interest in pursuing work in financial management; while Jaka has already owned his own business, an Internet café, back in Probolinggo and hopes to reopen his shop when returning home this year.

In addition to attending meetings and learning through making observations, both men also attend the Chamber’s CHOW events to meet and greet and assist wherever necessary, as well as make personal calls to Chamber members to invite them to events and thank them for their participation in past events.

“We’ve really focused a lot on networking because that was their interest,” Hughes noted, adding how impressed she has been at their willingness and ability to jump in with both feet and get involved in such new territory.

“I am amazed at how they’ve come into another country, can speak so well and adapt so well to our way of life,” Hughes commented. “They are really great guys!”

Shannon Janco, Chamber Member and Chair of the Outreach Committee, said she has enjoyed getting to know both men through her Chamber involvement and believes other members would most definitely agree.

“I really feel that the opportunity to have Bradley and Jaka on the Member Outreach Committee has done more for the community than it may have done for them from an educational perspective. People are captivated by them at our events. You will always find the business owners of the Brainerd area talking with them about their country and different aspects of business cultures and traditions. I've also heard people asking them about the foreign exchange program. Some have been interested in hosting and others have children that are interested in participating in this type of program. Although they are here for education, I truly believe that we have all learned from them.”

The two men will return to their respective countries in May, but not before taking a trip to visit the Nation’s capitol, as well as New York.

“I’ve enjoyed the college,” Jaka said, noting the friendships and connections he has made in such a short amount of time, including an experience that made local news. In November, Jaka and fiancée Anindita Anjali, who lives back in Indonesia, were married over the Internet via Skype software.

“We are here to study and get exposure to being American students,” Bradley explained. Part of that exposure has included an introduction to snow and cold, something both men agree was enjoyable for one day but quickly grew old. They also laughed about their fondness to American fast food, something they admitted to walking late at night in the cold to get from their apartment at The Pines near CLC.

“The people have been just so friendly since the time we got here,” Bradley noted.


Crow Wing, Todd counties unveil preliminary results of redesign pilot project

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Minnesota and Brainerd chambers play role in facilitating study that could have statewide impact in delivery of county services

Officials of Crow Wing and Todd Counties today unveiled the innovative results of a pilot project aimed at delivering superior county services to customers in a cost-effective manner.

“Our mission in this project was to identify how we could achieve better customer outcomes in an environment of fewer resources,” said Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator. “We wanted to identify breakthrough ideas about how we could do business differently and be more effective and efficient.”

The results of the pilot study were revealed today during a news conference at the Staples City Hall before an audience of employees and elected officials of Crow Wing and Todd Counties as well as representatives of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Long Prairie Chamber of Commerce, Staples-Motley Area Chamber of Commerce, Initiative Foundation and Region Five Development Commission among others.

This pilot project was sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and funded through the Bush Foundation. The counties commissioned The Reardon Group to perform the study – a “Design Concept for Building a Foundation for Reform.”

Through a collaborative process over the past five months, the partners in this project intensely studied how to better serve customers receiving community services, especially those receiving multiple health and human services. The partners wanted to determine how counties can better serve their customers, in a respectful manner that leads them to self-sufficiency, through judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

Tim Reardon, of The Reardon Group, said this study affirmed the need for prevention and early intervention so that the need for more intensive and expensive interventions can be avoided.

Recommendations of the study include:
• Investing the right resources at the right intensity at the right time for the greatest impact.
• Giving discretion for care to the people who know the customer best. In a sense, empowering front-line workers with the ability to tailor services based on needs.
• Providing the necessary resources to meet customer needs.
• Improving communication and services, especially across program areas, in part through better use of technology.
• Identifying rules and regulations that are barriers to change.

Social services administrators in Crow Wing and Todd Counties intend to immediately implement changes in policy in their counties as a result of this study. Other changes will require legislative approval. The counties, together with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce as well as regional chambers of commerce, will help carry this message to Minnesota legislators.

“We are excited about the opportunities presented in this study for counties to deliver services under a more efficient and effective model,” said Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO. “To help clear the way for counties to achieve these goals, we are prepared to help inform lawmakers about the barriers that are in the way. We will ask lawmakers for their help in clearing the path to county reform.”

Early in this study, the partners placed a high priority on consulting groups of people through focus groups. Customers provided enlightening information about their experiences. County workers and contracted service providers gave their input and observations about the current system and how it could be improved. In addition, county officials researched data in their respective counties to understand patterns and how multiple services were delivered to customers.

Service areas studied included corrections, law enforcement, public health and social services.
This information was then analyzed by a team, a Design Lab, which used the information to formalize recommendations on how to improve the delivery of these county services to customers.

“This is our bold vision to improve the outcomes for our customers and our communities,” Reardon said. “Now we need the courageous leadership necessary to champion this change. We need to remove obstacles and implement a new design for county services. It is time to dismantle what doesn’t work and to pursue a new way of doing business .”

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