- Tuesday, 26 April 2022
- Written by Bill Bowman
This past Thursday, April 21, we were fortunate to host the April Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club. Up & Coming Weekly has been a Chamber of Commerce member and advocate for twenty-six years and sponsoring this event for over fifteen years. It’s always been a fun, enjoyable and worthwhile experience. This year the timing was nearly perfect. After two years of COVID restrictions, local economic and entrepreneurial opportunities are abundant. Organizations like the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and established businesses like ours are vitally important to new business development and ultimate success. The Coffee Club is only one example of how our chamber offers value to its members.
Thursday’s event was graciously hosted by Chamber Board Chairwoman Tammy Thurman, the community relations director for Piedmont Natural Gas. Also in attendance were several other members of their board, though not nearly the attendance you would expect from an organization with twenty-plus board members; members of the business community charged with providing leadership, vision and guidance to this fast-growing business community.
The chamber’s mission statement outlines its purpose: “Our organization serves as a catalyst in growing a healthy business community through our advocacy of business-friendly public policy, fostering of diverse, innovative business initiatives, and delivering valuable programs and services to our members — all made possible through strong collaborative partnerships.”
Well, then, they need to get started because much work needs to be done in these areas. And, if the enthusiasm and organization of this last event is any indication of things to come, then I commend Thurman and the few notable board members who took the time to attend: the effervescent Master of Ceremony Gary Rogers, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. Scott Pence, Public Works Commission CEO Elaina Ball, Interim President of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Randy Fiveash, and Robert Van Geons of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development. A scant sampling of the prestigious board charged with the mission statement quoted above.
Chamber leadership, direction, vision and support are vital for nurturing new businesses and assisting existing businesses in taking advantage of economic opportunities. Thriving and growing communities all have strong and established chambers. And all influential chambers have talented, dedicated leadership with business savvy, vision and respectability. These chambers have little or no dependency on local government agencies for funding. Strong chambers are self-supporting, utilizing local partnerships, effective fundraisers and maintaining a committed and loyal membership base. A strong chamber is best achieved by providing value to the members. Creating value and loyalty is accomplished by setting a good example, being a staunch and vocal supporter, and advocating for all local businesses and organizations.
For whatever reasons, our Chamber of Commerce has sidelined itself during the past several years, becoming irrelevant to the business community by not getting involved and failing to take a stand on important issues that impact local businesses, chamber members and the community. However, I see this changing for the better. This year we see new faces and personalities on the board. Stepping up are experienced leaders who understand business and, more importantly, the uniqueness of this community and the need to be informed and involved with important issues that affect business and economic growth.
They understand that the chamber serves all businesses in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
It is my hope that they realize and take seriously that Fayetteville and Cumberland County are unique, with business and community environments far different from other cities and towns across the country. To be successful here and to effect positive change, one must recognize and understand the nuances of this community. An effective chamber understands the community’s diversity.
They know our media (or lack of) impacts businesses; we must stay informed on important issues related to our businesses. They need to know about Fort Bragg’s economic impact on our community and how military turnover influences almost every aspect of our lives.
Yes, Fayetteville and Cumberland County need a strong chamber. This is a fabulous community with amazing opportunities. With a new chamber board recently installed, I hope we will see an aggressive future vision.
Thurman gets it, and so do the board members who attended the Coffee Club last Thursday. Let’s hope the rest of the board will follow suit.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.