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Chamber panel kicks off drive for growth

Like the American Express card ad from years ago,Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce officials hope toshow local businesses that “membership has its privileges.”

A newly formed membership development committee held its firstmeeting Monday. Longtime chamber volunteer Rita Rich and formerchamber president Kenny Goza are leading the panel.

The panel has set a goal of establishing 100 new memberaccounts. Members were optimistic about reaching that goal.

“That’s doable if we work on it all year,” committee memberDavid Phillips said.

Previous years’ efforts have included a monthlong “blitz” tocontact and sign up new members. Goza said the panel will beplanning a kickoff for the new effort shortly.

Currently, the chamber has approximately 360 members accounts.Some accounts have multiple individual members, bringing thechamber’s membership total to around 600.

Among ideas discussed during Monday’s meeting was publiceducation about the importance of the chamber and how it helpsmembers.

“We’re going to have to educate the public about what thechamber does,” Rich said.

Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president, cited educationefforts through pamphlets and other materials. He indicated thechamber will also have to be prepared to meet higher expectationsof members.

“They’re going to expect more from us and we need to plan to dothat,” Brumfield said.

Rich cited a need to focus on new members and to provide morerecognition for the chamber’s small business of the month and year.Panel members hoped to be able to do that through local mediaoutlets.

The committee discussed target areas for membership development.With its number of employees and the sales tax dollars itgenerates, retail was the top target area for the committee.

“We will be taking on a much stronger retail focus,” Brumfieldsaid.

Along those lines, members alluded to the need for betterpublicity for ribbon cuttings. Chamber officials said there were 51ribbon-cuttings last year but some were not well-attended.

With limited chamber funds, the panel sought economical means ofpromoting those events and others. A suggestion was to e-mailmembers and restart a monthly newsletter that could also be sentelectronically.

“That’s something we can do for nothing,” Phillips said.

Other panel plans included capitalizing on existing chamberactivities such as by encouraging chamber ambassadors and staffmembers to visit businesses more often. Those are designed to getbusiness leaders’ input on how the chamber can better helpthem.

Also on the list was an advertising campaign and a review of thechamber’s dues structures. Brumfield said other chambers ofcommerce could be contacted to see how they compare to theBrookhaven-Lincoln County chamber.

Businesses’ base rate for chamber membership is $200 a year.There is an additional fee based on the number of full-timeemployees a business has.

“That base rate probably covers half our members,” Gozasaid.

Dues for an individual are $150 a year and $70 a year forretired individuals.