Ready, Set, Go! New Chamber Team Ready To Help Economy

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Nancy LaBonte, new Director of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce, and assistant Caitlin Osborn, reported to work in the middle of March. Three days later, the City shut down and they started working from home. 
They were able to access emails and voice mails from the office and respond to them. LaBonte also researched information and bills related to small businesses and kept in touch with business owners as they applied for disaster relief. She scheduled BCE TV interviews with local persons who had relevant information for small businesses, including Mark Richardson, Director, Benton County Emergency Management; Steve Daleske, Presiding Benton County Commissioner; and Lynette Stokes, Executive Director of Benton County Tourism and Recreation. A local business owner is also scheduled to broadcast the experience she had when applying for disaster relief.
Monday, April 27, was the first day back at the Chamber office where LaBonte is working mornings and Osborn is working afternoons. They are amping up efforts to support businesses with weekly broadcasts on BCE TV, plus a Chamber Chat column on the first edition of each month in the Benton County Enterprise (BCE). The Chamber is providing resources to businesses, giving flyer support for events by running them off and distributing to businesses. The Chamber is also partnering with Carrie Reiman, a Chamber member, to help assist new high school graduates get jobs with local businesses before going on to college, or to learn a business that they want to go into. 
“Jim White, publisher of the BCE, has been very supportive to the Chamber,” said LaBonte. “As have Chamber board members and Chamber members. My assistant, Caitland, is a jewel and we work beautifully as a team. We are going through files and putting them on the computer so that if anything happens to us, the information will be available.”
LaBonte said that business is still coming to Warsaw. She was contacted by a realtor who has a client interested in setting up a new business in Warsaw, and she referred him to the Warsaw City Administrator.
LaBonte brings a lot of experience in business and chamber of commerce activities to her new job in Warsaw. She was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and spent 40 years there as a mortgage banker where she became Assistant Vice President of her bank. While working to develop her business by networking and socializing in the community, she began volunteering on the local chamber greeter’s committee, and eventually became its chairman. She ended up becoming president of the chamber board. She also has had many travel experiences in Saudi Arabia, Europe and other distant places.
LaBonte and her husband moved to Benton County in 2019 and were pleasantly surprised by the area. She said that it is a great area to live in. Her husband died in November, and she said that her neighbors rallied around her with kindness and generosity. Afterwards, she talked to Mac Vorce about volunteering at the Warsaw Chamber and found out that he was leaving for another job. She applied for the position and was hired.
Caitlin Osborn, a native of Benton County who lives in Lincoln, has a business degree and according to LaBonte is aggressively using her business experience in organizing the office.
LaBonte said that she is working on getting business cards, and encourages businesses to call her for advice, to answer questions or talk about how the Chamber can help. She said that they can call her cell at 503-523-7267 or office number 660-438-5922.
“Our primary directive is to be of assistance to the business community,” she said.