I recently sat down with CeeCee Collins at her new office in the West Loveland Historic District to talk about their move, the Chamber expansion, her background, and to find out exactly what they do.
Loveland, Ohio – What would Historic Downtown Loveland be without the Little Miami Bike Trail, the 4th of July Firecracker Festival, the Loveland Valentine program, the authentic family-owned restaurants, and the unique assortment of small businesses scattered across the town? There’s one group of people that many locals don’t realize aid in making Loveland such a special place to live and visit. That group is the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance.
In 1969 The Little Miami River Chamber Alliance, then known as “The Businessmen’s Association,” was founded and began their journey with one goal in mind, to devote themselves to the civic and economic development of Loveland. The civic organization planned on doing this by simply supporting the business community with “member investor benefits”. Fast forward to the present day that simple concept led to an expansion beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, especially current LMR Chamber Alliance President CeeCee Collins.
“Our mission in creating and now expanding the chamber has always been to help businesses succeed. We serve as the leading advocate for businesses in Loveland, Symmes Township, and Miami Township. We have gone from at the beginning having 38 businesses to now serving over 300. It has been so much fun to watch our community expand and small businesses succeed,” Collins said, “With 83 percent of our businesses being small businesses we place a huge focus on helping them connect to the consumer and other businesses through our business directory listings in an annual magazine, our networking events, and through offering free listings on our website.”
So how did current LMR Chamber Alliance President CeeCee Collins become involved in creating such a successful, tight-knit community of businesses?
“About 21 years ago my family and I moved back to the Cincinnati area. I went to Xavier University. I worked part-time for the Blue Ash YMCA and at the time Loveland was exploring the idea of opening a YMCA. Through that, I was exploring development and fundraising. They asked me to take the lead, so that’s how I got to know all the folks of Loveland and started to get really involved in the community. I got a fulltime job once my kids got older at Ohio Valley Voices in Miami Township. It’s a school for deaf children and we would teach them to speak. I did all the community marketing for them,” Collins said, “The Chamber job became vacant after I had worked 5 years for Ohio Valley Voices and I thought it might be the next step for me. Being so passionate about the Loveland area and the people here I knew the job would be a great fit for me and that I would be great at it!”
“In 2016 we explored the idea of expanding. We talked to Symmes and Miami townships and they were on board, so we changed the name to Little Miami River Chamber Alliance because the river goes through in all three places,” Collins explained, “We were in John Hill’s Construction Building in the downtown Historic District, but after expanding we found ourselves doing more events and it was getting tighter and tighter with all our event supplies, so we moved into a new building on West Loveland Avenue on the other side of the river in the West Loveland Historic District, partly because of space. We also realized that moving into a new building would give someone else the opportunity to open a new retail space in the Downtown Historic District. Our new building also gives us the opportunity to rent out our upstairs rooms for business owners who need some office space, which would include utilities, kitchen use, wi-fi, air conditioning, heat, and free parking for only 250 to 300 dollars. The building was built in 1905 and really has beautiful bones. There’s an old fashion telephone in the kitchen, there’s a place to put coal to warm the house, and I also noticed the registers are ancient,” Collins added.
With the addition of new business members into the Chamber, like Magnolia’s and older Chamber business members growing at such a rapid rate, like The Loveland Symmes Fire Department, Loveland City School District and Eads Hardware, the LMR Chamber is constantly planning events and looking for new event ideas to represent their 300 business members.
“There is a formula for planning events. If we do an event it has to be for a purpose. Everything is well discussed and well researched. We talk to the two townships and the city and ask questions like, is this event a benefit to your businesses? Where do we want to put it? We then talk to the business owners about where we want to have the event. Our goal is to have people notice businesses they wouldn’t normally see,” Collins explained, “I also look for sponsorships for the event since we are a non-profit organization. We then get a committee of business owners together for the event and we talk about what will make the event successful. Lastly, we line up details.”
Collins said that these days she could put together an event pretty quickly, but with the expansion of the Chamber and all of the new events popping up that they have never done before planning an event could take 3 to 4 months.
“With our events, our goals are to bring awareness to the areas we serve, provide opportunities for the businesses, and help them explore the market and decide if they want to be in it. Not to mention the events also allow us to keep our doors open and to be quite honest they are just fun,” Collins said.
Some of the biggest events that bring in the largest crowds, according to Collins, are the Fourth of July Firecracker Festival and The Food Truck Rally.
“Fourth of July is one of the biggest events because it’s such a tradition down here. The parade, the fireworks, the live music, the children’s activities. It’s such a festive atmosphere. The Food Truck Rally is really growing and it’s really becoming the kick off to summer,” Collins said, “Doug Portman also does some amazing events that bring a lot of people down to Loveland such as The Amazing Charity Race and The Halloween Edition Amazing Race, which this year’s theme is Loveland’s Little Vegas. It will be held on October 27th.”
With Fall right around the corner, there is no doubt that downtown Loveland will be more lively than ever with all of the new businesses popping up as well as the new events representing them.
“As Loveland takes off being a part of it has been such a pleasure. People want to get more involved so it’s been fun for us,” Collins said.
Loveland residents and visitors can expect an open house hosted by the LMR Chamber Alliance within the next few months showcasing their new home located at 425 W Loveland Ave. If you would like more information on the Chamber or have thoughts of becoming a member yourself you can find out more information on their Website, Facebook Page or by calling 513-683-1544.