First goal set, to increase value of chamber membership
By Barbie Porter
The city of Perham is well-know for having a tight-knit business community with unique activities to draw visitors to town. Nick Murdock is part of the Perham team responsible for the continued success, and he is now taking on more duties with the Perham Chamber of Commerce as its new executive director.
Murdock is well-known in the Perham community as a former business owner and for being the current economic development authority director. He said merging the two positions was a natural fit, as many aspects of the jobs overlapped.
Murdock will manage the office staff and oversee the marketing and budget, as well as take the reins of coordinating chamber events.
“The former director had all of it set up really well, so stepping in and taking over some of the duties is not as big of a learning process as I thought it would be,” he said.
The former executive director, Dan Schroeder, continues to work for the chamber handling the aspects to do with sales, such as with selling memberships. It was Schroeder who initially pitched Murdock with the idea of taking on duties of the chamber of commerce. After speaking with Perham City Administrator Jon Smith, the merge was approved. Murdock emphasized the Perham Chamber of Commerce is still its own entity outside of the city, but the two entities entered a partnership for the executive director position.
Murdock said there is much to admire about his predecessor. He recalled while he was a business owner the membership of the Perham Chamber of Commerce was respectable, but after Schroeder took the helm the number of businesses and residents joining the chamber boomed. As membership grew the budget improved and Schroeder had a knack for creating appealing marketing packages.
“He did a great job of putting Perham on the map,” Murdock said.
Since he recently took on the executive director position with the chamber of commerce, Murdock is looking forward to the warm weather that draws tourists and area residents to town for the famous turtle races. He volunteered at the races last summer, and estimated an average of 150 racers each week visited Perham, which doesn’t include the family and friends who came along for the fun. Organizing the event and visiting with the smiling and cheering faces is something he looks forward to. He also aims to continue strengthening the ties with area organizations and county partnerships.
“My big goal is to bring more value to chamber membership,” he said, noting training events, network opportunities and more involvement opportunities for members is where he plans to start.
Being a member of the Perham Chamber of Commerce gives businesses an opportunity to increase exposure and reach potential customers through getting listed on the chamber’s website, in the business directory and options for advertising on Perham.com, which Murdock reported sees 1,000-plus visitors on a weekly basis.
“Chamber members also get an advocate. We are planning a marketing budget of $50,000 this year, just to market Perham.”Nick Murdock
Another big draw to joining the chamber is getting the opportunity to know the many members of its tight-knit business owners. Murdock divulged the rumors are true, that the Perham business community has a well-orchestrated drive to set common goals and work together to achieve them. He added businesses also have an organization that provides city-wide events, and the chamber is by their side supporting them.
Hometown boy becomes community leader as adult
Murdock’s family moved to Perham while he was in junior high. Ever since, the town of almost 3,500 has been his home. His parents became owners of Ace Hardware Store, a Main Street staple. Through the years, Murdock observed what it meant to be a business owner and the importance of being involved in the community through volunteering.
The 2001 Perham High School graduate knew his career path early on as he had a strong interest in community development and real estate. Upon returning to his hometown after college, Murdock took over the family business.
“My wife and I decided to transition out of being a small business owner, but I still wanted to be involved in the community,” he said.
He applied for the Economic Development Authority Director position two years ago, and was hired. While economic development often deals with long-term goals, the group has worked hard to see results. Murdock said the EDA accomplishments he is most proud of in recent years includes a Starfish Grant and increasing housing options.
The Starfish Grant came about because of the financial impact COVID-19 had on businesses. Murdock explained when some businesses were forced to close its doors in early 2020, the EDA acted quickly and teamed with other organizations in the area to offer grant funding to businesses to make up for lost revenue. Murdock explained the grant’s name came from KLN leadership.
“They had a book they read to their kids that had to do with a starfish and a little girl on the beach,” he recalled.
The starfish had been carried by the ocean tide onto the beach. The girl was picking them up, one by one, and tossing them back into the water. A man saw what she was doing and suggested her actions made no difference because she couldn’t possibly save all the starfish.
“But she continues and throws another starfish into the water, and then she explains she just made a difference to that one starfish,” Murdock said, adding that is what the EDA hoped to do for each business that needed help with those grant dollars.
Another goal the EDA has tackled in recent years has to do with housing. The housing crunch is well-known to those living in the lakes area, as well as those trying to move to the community. Perham’s pro-active approach has resulted in more opportunities for renters and home-owners.
“I’m proud of how we have been able to keep developments going and people interested in moving to Perham,” Murdock said.