The Carbondale (and other local) Chamber of Commerce's "Shop Southern Illinois" promotion took second place in the national Chamber Innovation Award Competition:
Shop Southern Illinois, a cooperative effort of 17 area chambers of commerce, placed second in the third annual national Chamber Innovation Award Competition, a program which celebrates and shares inventive ideas from chambers across the nation. Nearly 100 entries were received from Chamber organizations in the United States and Canada. Awards were announced Wednesday at the annual conference of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives held in Savannah, Ga.
Shop Southern Illinois featured a website where area residents could learn some of the reasons why it is important for Southern Illinoisans to shop locally and where they could take an online pledge to do most of their own holiday shopping in the region. By making the pledge, participants were entered in weekly drawings to win prizes which were donated by businesses.
A full marketing plan supported the program. Local and regional media ran promotions as public service announcements free of charge. The campaign included television and radio commercials featuring Southern Illinois University Men's Basketball Head Coach Barry Hinson, who urged area residents: "Don't cross the river and don't go online. Do your holiday shopping right here, where we all win."
Southern Illinois Chambers cooperating for the effort included Benton/West City, Carbondale, Carmi, Carterville, Chester, DuQuoin, Hamilton County, Herrin, Jefferson County, Marion, Metropolis, Murphysboro, Nashville, Pinckneyville, Saline County, Union County, and West Frankfort.
"It's very exciting to have our Shop Southern Illinois program recognized on a national scale," said Les O'Dell, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. "The effort is the ultimate in regional cooperation -- 17 chambers and businesses all over the region all working together with one goal: making area residents mindful of the importance of supporting our own communities and region."
Area Chamber leaders plan to continue the two-year-old program in 2016 and are pledging to use the $500 cash prize from the competition as prize money for this year's Shop Southern Illinois campaign.
The contest was sponsored by Minnesota-based ChamberMaster, a company that provides membership database software to Chambers of Commerce.