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Anderson retires after raising Two Harbors Chamber to new heights
Photo: Gordy Anderson
Gordy Anderson has retired as president of the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce (THACC). Encompassing the communities of Duluth, Knife River, Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, Silver Bay, Finland and Isabella, members of the THACC come from a wide range of the mostly rural landscape of Northeastern Minnesota.
Nineteen years ago, Anderson had just retired from the telephone industry, working at Contel, later bought out by GTE, after a 30 year career. He accepted the part time position as chamber president, which soon morphed in a full time job.
“We grew the membership when I started,” Anderson said. “In about two years time, we added about 100 members.”
Starting out as The North Shore Business Men’s Association more than six decades ago, the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce has evolved along with a few name changes. No matter what you call it, fostering a healthy atmosphere for business has always been the mission.
”Creating a climate where all businesses can prosper comes from marketing the community. That brings tourists and potential companies to the area,‘ he said. Anderson has always believed that letting people know what the North Shore has to offer is a natural draw for improving economic growth.
One of his biggest challenges has been a constant for 19 years: detailing for the public what the chamber accomplishes. In short, it follows the directives of its members.
That means promoting tourism, working with manufacturers and much more. Calling tourism a big sector of the areas economy, Anderson is proud of collaborating with manufacturing industries, healthcare agencies and higher education institutions.
Anderson is particularly proud of the collaboration that recently brought college instruction to the region — being part of the team that established Mesabi Community College on the North Shore.
Through a survey three years ago, the chamber determined that workforce development was its number one need in local manufacturing industries. Coordinating project meetings and grant applications, Anderson led the chamber's initiative to create a partnership between the Lake Superior School District and Mesabi Range Technical and Community College.
”The manufacturing sector was telling us they needed millwrights and welders, so we made that happen,” he said. Now there are college-level courses at Two Harbors High School for welding certification and at Silver Bay's William Kelley High School to become millwrights.
Anderson also has helped develop a business retention program, raising funds and introducing technology to the group. He feels the THACC web page is so well developed and managed that it has become the “go-to” Internet site for Two Harbors. Citing a keen focus on technology as an important resource for marketing, Anderson said at least 20 percent of out-of-town visitors are ﬂnding their way to local businesses by using mobile apps, and plans a new mobile application addition to be going up on the THACC website.
Warren Miller of Harbor Insurance Agency has been on the chamber board continually since 1986, and has stepped in to the president's role for one full term and ﬂlled in a couple of times over the years when other terms ended early.
“It’s never just been a job with him. He cares about the community,‘ Miller said of Anderson’s commitment to bolster the area's economic strength. From the beginning, he said, Anderson went above and beyond expectations to understand business community needs.
Crediting him with a continuity of energy and vision, Miller said Anderson saw the need to catch people just as they were leaving Duluth. Four years ago, he set out to transform the iconic little blue information center where the Lester River crosses Highway 61 into a resource for the THACC. Despite the low direct revenue from the information booth, Anderson recognized a wise investment: getting information about businesses to visitors just as they head up the shore. This summer alone, despite a significant shutdown due to the Lakewalk construction at Lester River, over 10,000 people stopped there to make inquiries.
Miller said winter tourism has probably tripled in the area around Two Harbors during the last 20 years, and attributes much of that to Anderson’s marketing skills. Bringing his personal love of the area into promoting the whole North Shore often required extra hours.
“Gordy’s been a great asset to the chamber. It's going to be tough to replace him,‘ Miller said.
In another retirement phase that does not look very much like retiring, Anderson will continue two publishing ventures he has pursued for 15 years: the area's snowmobile map and the Two Harbors community directory. He plans to have some fun, too, watching 15 grandkids at their various concerts and ball games, and even anticipates carving out some more time for camping and ﬂshing.
Janelle Jones, who has served as tourism director for the chamber since 2010, will succeed Anderson. She owns Jones Cleaning and Professional Building Services.
Kitty Mayo is a North Shore-based freelance writer.Previous BusinessNorth Exclusives Articles:
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