Annual Dubuque chamber meeting focuses on connections, joy

As Neil Ihde began his speech at the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Wednesday, he worked to counteract a long-held societal conviction about success.

“There’s this assumption that we have in our culture that if you work hard and become successful, then you will be happy,” Ihde told the crowd of roughly 250 people. “But what the research tells us is that it’s the opposite: … When we are happy, we are going to be more successful.”

Idhe spoke Wednesday on the importance of joy in the workplace and in hiring individuals who promote delight, communication and authentic connection. Such individuals, who Idhe dubbed “joy spreaders,” curate a better workplace culture and contribute to team cohesion.

He referenced data showing that individuals who feel socially connected at work are more likely to perform at their best and stay with the organization, and he told several anecdotes about individuals he knows who have spread joy.

His speech fed into the theme of the chamber’s annual meeting, which was “Joy in Business.” Addressing the crowd, Chamber CEO/President Molly Grover said such a focus is key for area businesses.

“We want to emphasize what I believe are the most essential, yet most overlooked, ingredients to our collective success: joy, kindness and enthusiasm,” Grover said. “We are in the relationship-building business after all, and kindness matters.”

In addition to Ihde’s presentation Wednesday, incoming Chamber Board Chairman Chad Wolbers took to the stage to recognize the chamber’s various successes over the past year while laying the groundwork for efforts yet to come. Wolbers, founder of the DaraGroup, replaces outgoing chair and TH Media Publisher Mike Fortman.

Over the last fiscal year, Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce added 80 new members for a total of 975 members.The chamber also held a total of 386 events and activities attended by more than 42,000 people over that same time span.

Wolbers stressed the chamber will continue building on that growth and engagement moving forward to bolster the local economy.

Additionally, he said the chamber will continue efforts to restore and expand commercial air service at the Dubuque Regional Airport in conjunction with the local nonprofit DBQ Air, as well as push forward on “Operation Population” to grow the local population.

“Creating an environment conducive to talent attraction is a core part of what we do at the chamber, and we (as an organization) look to continue to be instrumental in meeting that goal,” Wolbers said.

Two chamber members received awards at Wednesday’s luncheon. Chamber ambassador Nelson Klavitter received the volunteer of the year award and Q Casino + Resort CEO Alex Dixon received the Chamber Chair Award for his efforts to better Dubuque.