Jenks Chamber Dedicated to Growth, Building Businesses
By LANE CASTLEBERRY
Jenks Chamber of Commerce
Incorporated in 1966, the Jenks Chamber of Commerce has long been a driver of economic health and progress in the Jenks community.
The organization works to promote and enhance Jenks through economic and community development, advocacy for business and tourism.
The Chamber is governed by a 13-member board of directors. Day-to-day operations and activities are overseen by Chamber President Josh Driskell and by staff members Angie Rains, the chamber’s director of business development, and Director of Communications Lane Castleberry.
“The mission of the Jenks Chamber, as laid out in our founding documents, is clear,” said Driskell. “Our job is to ‘promote and enhance the economic vitality and quality of life’ here in Jenks.”
Driskell noted that community development programs such as the annual Jenks America Food Truck Festival and Jenks America Freedom Fest not only improve the quality of life for Jenks – giving residents activities to do – but also bring in visitors.
“Our community events bring in people from all over,” Castleberry explained. “We have people from as close as Glenpool and as far away as Arkansas and Texas.”
One of the programs the Chamber has found great success in is the Women in Business program. Held quarterly, the functions bring in speakers to cover topics from networking to career advice.
“The amazing response we’ve seen to Women in Business has, I think, shown the need for this kind of programming here in Jenks and south Tulsa,” Rains said. “We’re providing a service and for the business community that engages women at all levels of the private sector.”
Rains added the chamber also provides programming for all members including monthly luncheons, which often features elected officials and professional experts, small business trainings, and more.
While providing networking and training is important, Driskell adds that being an advocate for Jenks and the business community at all levels of government is an important role for the Chamber.
“Our members rely on us to have relationships with our elected officials, city officials and staff,” he said. “We’re often times the connector for our members to solutions. We’ve helped businesses address issues from the municipal to the federal levels.”
Recently, the chamber took aggressive steps on the economic development front with its Elevate Jenks economic development strategy.
The chamber unveiled the action plan on Sept. 12.
Created in partnership with Community Growth Strategies, it lays out five goals for the chamber based upon interviews, focus groups and a public forum. In total, more than 40 business leaders, civic leaders and citizens provided feedback for the plan.
“Jenks is one of Oklahoma’s fastest growing cities and its demographics lead the nation, the state and the region in nearly every category,” said Jim Fram, consultant with CGS, adding that Jenks does not face demographic struggles the way some communities do.
The five goals laid out in the plan – and were accompanied by actionable steps for each – were to establish an economic development division in the chamber, build a stronger sense of identity in Jenks as a magnet for talent in the region, develop a marketing strategy for economic growth, partner with city leaders to identify areas prime for additional development, and to provide for a regulatory environment and infrastructure to support growth in Jenks.
“You have to develop an atmosphere of ‘getting it done’,” Fram said.
Another area the Chamber tackled this year was increasing Jenks’ tourism efforts. The Chamber partnered with the Oklahoma Aquarium to establish Sharklahoma – a month-long celebration of sharks, the Oklahoma Aquarium and Jenks.
The celebration, held throughout July, featured community events, a showing of Jaws at the Aquarium followed by a debunking of shark myths, and a showing of Sharknado and an interview with film writer Thunder Levin.
“We needed to capitalize on one of our biggest strengths,” Driskell said. “Undoubtedly, our competitive advantage in tourism is the Oklahoma Aquarium. Nobody is doing what we’re doing here.”
Driskell explained the Oklahoma Aquarium has the largest collection of bull sharks in the world and that the Aquarium is one of the only facilities able to keep the sharks alive.
The chamber and the Jenks Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, it’s affiliated 501(c)(3) entity, have also helped shape many of the public amenities in Jenks.
In the early 2000s, the chamber and the foundation partnered with the City of Jenks to raise private funds to help jumpstart construction of Veterans Park. This project was done in conjunction with the City of Jenks’ centennial.
The Foundation recently raised matching funds to construct Jenks’ first public dog park, BarkWest.
For more information about the Jenks Chamber, visit jenkschamber.com or call (918) 299-5005.
The mission of the Jenks Chamber of Commerce is to promote and enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the Jenks community. Located in downtown Jenks, the Chamber of Commerce offices out of The Hive, a 4,000+ square-foot creative space for the arts. In addition to offering art exhibits and networking events at The Hive, the chamber manages the Downtown Commons park, offering the community dozens of family-friendly events throughout the year. For a full calendar of events and updates on initiatives, visit www.jenkschamber.com.