01Chamber CEOIt was welcomed news that Greater Fayetteville Chamber leadership has finally hired a new president and CEO to take over the growth and development of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber. Christine Michaels of Brandon, Florida, will take the helm as the new president. Fayetteville is a dynamic and growing community and needs a strong Chamber of Commerce. Local businessman Darsweil Rogers, president of RMC Strategies, has done a yeoman’s job in holding the organization together as interim Chamber president, but, the truth be known, the worth of any Chamber membership is in the value it brings to its members. The local Chamber should be the leading business organization in the community, advocating for not just small businesses, but for all business, industries and organizations. 

The last couple of years, our Chamber has been crippled by an unfortunate combination of inadequate qualifications, misplaced priorities, weak leadership skills and an apathetic and ineffective board of directors that have culminated in our once proud and efficient Chamber losing its respected position as an effective business advocate and agent of change for local progress. Hence, the loss of membership. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is this situation is an easy fix with the right leader, a strong focused board of directors, a competent staff and the desire and intestinal fortitude of the community to “do the right things for the right reasons.” Currently, there is a major Chamber emphasis on growing the membership. The reality is that pushing to increase membership without adding value to Chamber programs will only make the situation worse in the long run. 

I am a huge Chamber advocate. I built my entire company on the back of a strong and respectable Greater Fayetteville Chamber. I know how important it is. This is why it is my hope that the new CEO brings with her the talent, leadership and fortitude that can rebuild, revitalize and reinstitute prestige, value and clout back into our local organization. Of course, she will need some assistance, and I hope that readily comes from the support and cooperation of all city, county and local economic development agencies, including the Downtown Alliance. 

The Chamber needs programs that add value to business and industry to help them grow, develop and prosper. It is this kind of advocacy that builds value, and in turn increases membership. Like everything else, it comes down to quality over quantity. In this case, quality equals
quantity (memberships). 

It is doubly important in this community where our residential population is constantly changing. This being said, it is encouraging to see our Greater Fayetteville Chamber partnering with the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina to sponsor the upcoming Leadership Simulcast and “Shop Local” Business 2 Business Expo April on 12. 

Not only will this be a full day of free events promoting the value of teamwork and leadership, it will feature “shop local” themes and showcase local businesses and organizations that bring quality, dependable products and services to consumers with the highest degree of honesty and integrity. Why is this important? Because unlike other communities, Fayetteville/Cumberland County welcomes approximately 1,500 new families into our community each month. (Yep, 1,500! Not people. Families. Each month.) Our office receives the names and addresses of every one of them — every month. And we send every one of them a personal “Welcome to Fayetteville” greeting each month. 

Again, why is this important? Because 1,500 families that were shopping at their favorite local stores, eating at local restaurants and using local services will be leaving the Fayetteville community and the new arriving families have no idea where to shop, eat or receive services. They don’t know which local businesses demonstrate the highest standards in quality, integrity and honesty. So, the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber work hand in hand to raise the profiles of quality businesses while encouraging consumers to do business locally
with confidence. 

This is a win-win for everyone. Both are good for business and community growth and development. We welcome Christine Michaels to the Fayetteville community as the incoming president and CEO of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber. We look forward to supporting her efforts in leading our Chamber to new and inspiring heights in a community destined for greatness. 

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