Meet Sandy Chapin, Sherry Matlock and Susan Alexander of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance
Writer / Seth Johnson
Photographer / Jason Graves
Day in and day out, Sandy Chapin, Sherry Matlock and Susan Alexander work to make Kokomo a better place to live, work and play.
As part of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, each woman has worked tirelessly to help Kokomo business owners navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse effects on the economy. While assisting Kokomo businesses with their everyday needs, Alexander, Chapin and Matlock also do their best to advocate for women-owned businesses in the community, in an effort to make the city more equitable going forward.
As manager of the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, Chapin works to create a vibrant, engaging business community in Kokomo. Currently, the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce has about 550 active members, with hopes of growing that number to include even more local businesses.
“Our programs and resources include anything from connecting businesses with each other, to connecting them with local and state leaders, to advocacy,” Chapin says. “We provide them with unique opportunities to market through the Chamber. We also provide them with educational resources and seminars such as Local Learn & Leads, Business Matters luncheons and other programming services.”
In her role as manager of the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau, Matlock uses tools like the Visit Kokomo website to draw visitors to the area.
“At the Visitors Bureau, we promote the community to visitors and also to residents, highlighting the many experiences that Kokomo and Howard County have to offer,” Matlock says. “These opportunities are attractions, like Kokomo Opalescent Glass tours, museums, displays of public art, parks and trails, restaurants, places to shop and places to stay while visiting – all of those things that make our community unique.”
With any thriving city, it’s important to have a vibrant downtown. This is something Susan Alexander works on as manager of the Greater Kokomo Downtown Association.
“Our mission is to promote the heart of Kokomo, and help develop programs and resources that help our community and residents thrive,” Alexander says. “We host First Fridays each month, the Strawberry Festival annually, the new Artsapalooza Arts Festival and Experience, a New Year’s Eve celebration, and many other smaller events, just to name a few.”
While all three may have their own individual roles in the city, Alexander, Chapin and Matlock regularly work together as part of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance on various city initiatives.
“In being part of the Alliance, our decisions are stronger together as we collaborate and work together to not duplicate efforts,” Matlock says. “An example of that is Susan with Downtown is creating a vibrant downtown for residents in the community. In turn, that has made a destination for visitors to go eat, shop, experience art and enjoy live music, which we can promote to visitors.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Alexander, Chapin and Matlock did their best to provide Kokomo businesses with the help and support they needed. In the case of the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, Chapin tried to make sure business owners were educated on how best to navigate the ever-changing situation.
“We were able to provide a number of resources for our members during the pandemic that they may not have known about or could not have found otherwise, such as information on funding,” Chapin says. “We were able to get everybody together and host a series of informational Zoom meetings and Facebook Lives to help keep our businesses in the know.”
Additionally, the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau awarded grants to businesses that were especially hurt by the pandemic.
“The pandemic was obviously a hit for the tourism and travel industry, but last year the Visitors Bureau was able to offer grants to businesses in our local hospitality and tourism industry that were specifically impacted by the pandemic,” Matlock says. “These were businesses like hotels, meeting facilities and visitor attractions – those places that see high visitor travel. These grants really helped ensure that these businesses were able to continue operating into the future, welcoming visitors to Kokomo.”
Through their work with the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, Alexander, Chapin and Matlock also look to support women-owned and women-led businesses however they can. In doing this, their hope is to ultimately empower the city’s next generation of women leaders.
“We have a Women’s Business Council that’s made up of about 20 to 25 leaders from the community,” Chapin says. “They are some powerful ladies in great leadership roles. It’s just an awesome group. They share resources. They elevate each other. They help each other out with women-owned business questions. In essence, we try to support, celebrate and hopefully educate these lady leaders of our community.”