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IN THE KNOW: Goal: A community of excellence

Alexandria is currently experiencing some pretty exciting times.

The local economy is strong. We have a strong business community that represents a vast array of services and products.We have a strong education system, a strong health care system, quality law enforcement entities, active nonprofit and service organizations, and so much more.

Our downtown is vibrant, when many historic downtowns across the state are struggling to survive.

That's not to say we don't have our challenges — lack of workforce, lack of affordable housing options and lack of daycare availability are three of the biggest problems plaguing our area right now. But they are the same issues that many other communities are facing.

The exciting thing is that we have identified our issues, and many different entities are working to try to come up with answers to those problems. I truly believe that if we continue to work together, we are going to come up with some solutions that will make our community shine even brighter.

The Alexandria Chamber's current strategic plan focus areas revolve around collaborations, operational excellence, satisfied members and strategic programming. All of these are about building relationships, which is what the Chamber focused on doing in 2017. These focus areas are also about striving for excellence, which is the Chamber's 2018 theme and vision.

Last year we worked to establish and strengthen relationships throughout the community that would better position us to be a unified community. The goal was to get the community's various entities working in harmony toward the same goals instead of duplicating services or working in parallel fashion.

By pooling resources, knowledge and strategic thinking, we knew we could be more efficient and better stewards for our community. We're excited about the progress made in 2017.

Now, in the coming year, our goal is to build upon those relationships to strive for excellence — within the Chamber and throughout the community. Our goal within the Chamber is to bring all of our services and programming to a level of excellence. But we want that for the entire community as well. We've got a lot of good things going on here, and we are hoping everyone will join forces to bring that good to the level of great.

You can help simply by focusing on excellence in your daily life, whether you are a CEO, a line worker, a receptionist, a teacher, a store owner, a parent, a student, a volunteer... Whoever you are, be excellent.

Another easy way we can improve our community is by working together. Stop looking at the businesses down the road as your competitors, and start looking at them as your allies and partners.

People don't visit here to shop Downtown Alexandria just because of one store. They come because our entire downtown is vibrant and flourishing. It's a draw. That's because we have an active downtown merchants association that works together to plan and execute things that will benefit all while also, hopefully, improving each business' bottom line.

People don't just come here for our great outdoor recreational opportunities. They come here because our many lakes and trails are surrounded by quality lodging and varied dining options. It's all the pieces together that make us great.

Why should you care when a local business shuts its doors? Because when a business closes, people lose their jobs. When people lose their jobs, they spend less, or perhaps even leave the community. They are no longer contributing to the local economy.

It matters. A community is strong when there is a lot of business and service options, not less.

Why should you care if the business down the street offers poor customer service? Because visitors don't just remember the particular business for the bad service, they remember the entire community. If you don't care what the business down the street is doing, you should.

Please join the Chamber in our quest to obtain excellence! I challenge you to think about the role you personally play in making this community the "ultimate destination to live, work, play and prosper."

Let's work together to make this a "Community of Excellence!"

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Tara Bitzan is the director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.