MIDLOTHIAN — The Midlothian Chamber of Commerce has experienced several firsts and record-breaking numbers under the leadership of Chamber President Sara Garcia.

“2011 has been a tremendous opportunity for me,” Garcia said. “It’s been such a blessing to be supported by a dynamic board whose main focus is to maximize the value of chamber membership.”

This year, the chamber has served its members by giving over 48,000 referrals to its members, which is up 13,000 as compared to last year. Over 3,500 upcoming events and specials for chamber members and local nonprofit organizations were promoted through the chamber’s newsletter, upcoming events emails, website and social media pages.

“While technology can be capricious at times, we’ve yet to exhaust all of the benefits that the Internet has to offer in promoting our local businesses and events,” Garcia said.

The chamber’s website had nearly 61,000 page views this year, with about 65 percent of those being new visitors and about 35 percent returning visitors. Over 3,400 unique website visitors were from Midlothian. The chamber’s coupon page also received a record 6,261 views, where members can post coupons for their business at no additional cost.

In addition to serving its members, the chamber increased its numbers at community events and promotions. A new addition this year was “Taste of Midlothian” to the chamber’s expo, drawing in 30 percent more attendees to the 2011 expo. A record-setting 506 runners were clocked at the Christelle Moser Memorial 5K Run, including Midlothian ISD’s Rowdy Runners, later that day the chamber saw more than 180 vendors set up booths and promote their businesses and organizations at this year’s Fall Festival.

This year was the first time the chamber has ever held a free luncheon specifically for small business owners featured a talk by small business consultant Marc Wilson. The luncheon was made possible through a partnership with the Navarro College Small Business Development Center and the Corporation for the Economic Development of Midlothian.

“Next year, we’ll focus on maintaining fluidity with the ever-changing marketing trends,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s goals for next year include enhancing online marketing for members, additional networking opportunities and researching additional ways to promote and support the community. However, the chamber’s focus for improvements next year are guided by the input from its members, she said.

“We are conducting a membership survey from Dec. 27-Jan. 27 to see what kind of benefits our members find most valuable. Their responses will greatly impact the chamber’s goals for next year and how we serve our members,” Garcia said.

Chamber members received a link and notification about the membership survey in the week’s Vantage Point newsletter. Members are asked to answer 13 questions about their business type, which chamber marketing and service avenues they use the most and what areas they would like to see improvement or expansion of by the chamber.

In addition to serving its members, the chamber is also striving to promote itself and educate the community about the chamber’s presence.

“We’ll be increasing our marketing and in-lobby advertising to help members and citizens identify the chamber as an ambassador and connection to Midlothian businesses,” Garcia said.

For more information about the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce, visit www.midlothianchamber.org or call 972-723-8600.

Contact Aaron at 469-517-1456 or a.schwaderer@wninews.com