COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center and the United Way of Whitley County will soon open a spacious, new welcoming center in downtown Columbia City.
Since 1919, the Chamber has served as a point of welcome for visitors to the community and has also served as a point of answers and information for residents. After several years’ absence from downtown, the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center will soon move to 128 W. Van Buren St., on the Whitley County Courthouse Square.
The new facility will feature a visitor’s center with a high-tech interactive kiosk with virtual mapping, a curated collection of Whitley County-made items, art prints of local landmarks, community-centric work of local artists, gifts, marketing materials and more. Additionally, the facility will include co-working space available for rent as well as a large and small conference room. Future plans include a bi-monthly public art exhibition and new programs to market the community within and beyond Whitley County’s borders.
“For decades, the Chamber has served as a resource for those visiting our community and for those planning to relocate here,” said Jennifer Romano, executive director of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center. “Now, with the support of many community partners, we are building up our efforts in a major way to actively promote and sell our community.”
The opening of the facility is the realization of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center’s long-term plans to actively promote the community and to address the informational needs of residents, visitors and new residents to the community.
“The chamber has been working toward this goal for many years. And now as we open the doors to our new building and launch our expanded programming, we are taking the lead on promoting everything that is great about our community — locally and beyond,” added Mike DeFreeuw, a board member of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.
“The new Visitor’s Center will show residents what wonderful amenities and experiences our community has to offer,” said Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel. “We know our community is great, but this new Visitor’s Center will show the rest of the world what we already know.”
Excited by recent development in downtown Columbia City spearheaded by several entities, the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, the United Way of Whitley County and Pathfinder Services are eager to support their efforts by investing in the heart of the downtown.
“We applaud the efforts of many local individuals and volunteers who are working hard to make our downtown an attractive, busy place, and we look forward to growing as a nonprofit organization in this new location,” added Romano, citing the work of the Downtown Business Alliance, City of Columbia City, Whitley County EDC, Columbia City Main Street and others.
“We look forward to collaborating with each of these groups to highlight our wonderful community and to being a part of the excitement that is building throughout our community.”
“We are thrilled to be moving downtown, to the very heart of our community, and having a much more visible presence,” said Cindy Baker, executive director of the United Way of Whitley County.
“We are excited to open the doors to a new facility where we can serve our clients,” said employment specialist Connie Marsh of Pathfinder Services, an area nonprofit organization that assists people facing physical, developmental, or economic challenges as they achieve independence, inclusion,and stability.
“The Downtown Business Alliance welcomes the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center as well as the United Way to the downtown area,” said Ann Fahl, a representative of the Downtown Business Alliance. “We look forward to the Chamber and the United Way coming into the downtown area and becoming part of the growth and vitality happening there,” added Sharon Geiger, also of the Downtown Business Alliance.
The organizations anticipate moving into the space by the end of April and hosting an open house during the summer once renovations are complete.