In 2014, the Allegheny Valley, Armstrong, and StrongLand Chambers became one organization, the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce (AKS). Since the merger, AKS has persistently continued to provide services and programs to help benefit local communities, businesses, and individuals.

“You need strong communities to allow businesses to thrive, and you need strong businesses to allow the community to thrive,” explained Executive Director Colleen Felentzer. “We offer great networking opportunities, as well as events with strong educational emphasis, and even legislative representatives.”

The Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber serves 70 municipalities including all of Armstrong County and parts of Allegheny Valley and Westmoreland County.

The AKS has over 480 members and sponsors that they host or partner with in order to organize numerous year-long events, activities, and programs.

While many events are open to the public, some are exclusive to members. Membership to the Alle-Kiski Strong Chambers provides sponsors with training, education, referrals, legislative influence, and money saving discounts, as well as advertising, networking, and marketing opportunity benefits.

Membership price ranges from $100 for individuals, up to $1,500 for businesses with 501 or more employees. Membership prices in-between include $185 for one to 10 employees, $1,000 for financial institutions including all branches, $185 for nonprofit organizations, $250 for primary schools, and $500 for post secondary schools.

“The neat thing about our membership is that it’s very diverse,” said Felentzer. “We have something for all members whether they are municipalities, nonprofits, schools, colleges, small companies, or big companies. We offer great opportunities for the people to reach out and get those connections.”

Amongst the vast areas of community outreach that AKS participates in, they focus on networking, legislative advocacy, and educational areas of learning and participation.

“Everybody takes away something from each of our events,” said Felentzer. “However, our overall message is to help the region grow.”

Some of the recurring events that the Alle Kiski Strong Chambers is having this year include theConnections and Coffee series, as well as luncheon gatherings with local legislators.

“We hold a connections and coffee event whenever a business approaches us,” said Felentzer. “Members approach us if they want us to know about their shops or business. We provide the invites, and the business provides the coffee.”

These events are free but exclusive to chamber members. Members meet to network, pass out their business cards, and have the opportunity to discuss their business or organization.

Upcoming Connections and Coffee events include one at Method Automation Services in Arnold on Sept. 21, one at Zone 28 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 11, one at Consulate Health Care in Cheswick on Nov. 9, and one at Kafa Buna Coffee-Tea Shop in New Kensington on Dec. 6.

Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber’s legislative luncheons, however, are open to non chamber members. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a cost of $30 per non chamber member, the public is welcome to attend these luncheons and engage with the community and legislators.

“These events are great because it allows the community to be up close and personal with the legislators, and give them a chance to voice their concerns,” explained Felentzer.

Upcoming legislative luncheons will be held on Oct. 5 at the Willowbrook Country Club with CongressmanKeith Rothfus, Oct. 27 at the Belmont Complex with Senator Don White, and Dec. 14 at Zone 28 with Senator Randy Vulakovich.

Also free and open to the public is an upcoming economic development workshop on Oct. 18 at the Quality Inn in New Kensington. According to Felentzer, the event will feature various speakers and touch upon topics such as county funding availability, tools for manufacturing companies, tools for small businesses, an “economic forecast,” and a segment on “helping you make your town a better place.”

“It’s really worth becoming a member for all of these opportunities,” explained Felentzer. “We want to see the community grow, and we want to be a part of helping move everyone forward.”

Sarah Steighner is a staff writer for the Leader Times. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337