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Chamber's accomplishments for the year listed
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce had an excellent year in 2013, according to Immediate Past Chairman Guy Stanley.
More businesses became “involved and engaged” in the chamber, programs exceeded expectations, and collaboration with government officials to try to improve the local economy continued, Stanley told about 190 people at the organization’s 54th Annual Meeting and Leadership Recognition Dinner, held Tuesday night at Chatmoss Country Club.
He did not elaborate on those points.
The chamber advocates for local businesses, particularly its 633 members, striving to help them thrive so the area will have a stronger economy.
Having such a high membership level is “remarkable during a time when cost savings are sought by most business owners” due to economic concerns, said Joe Keiper, the chamber’s current chairman.
Keiper became chairman when the new fiscal year started in July. Stanley, who then stepped aside in that role, received a gavel after the dinner from Keiper in commemoration of his service.
Stanley listed the chamber’s successes in the past year. Among them were:
• Working hard to add businesses to the membership rolls each month.
• Holding another successful Fast Track trade show. The expo, held in early March at Commonwealth Centre, “brought record-matching numbers through the doors” to see what area businesses have to offer, he said.
• Joining forces with the Dan River Regional Collaborative to promote the National Career Readiness Certificate, which is administered by the Virginia Community College System. “Some of our top industries in the community” now use the certificate as a tool to screen potential employees, he said.
• Holding successful leadership development and supervisor training classes.
• Partnering with the Martinsville Area Community Foundation to provide more scholarships for youth leadership development program participants.
• Creating “Discover MHC,” an annual magazine showcasing the community. Stanley said that “all-local talent” is used to publish the magazine.
• Continuing to hold meetings with area legislators “to make sure we bring issues of interest to the business community to the forefront,” he said.
He credited chamber staff members for making the successes happen.
Stanley said one of the things he values most about the chamber is its “ability to switch gears quickly to align itself to do what is best for the business community while staying true to its mission.”
The chamber works with the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to help businesses leverage public and private resources that help them recruit new employees and retain existing ones, said Stanley, human resources director for The Lester Group.
Keeping talented staff members helps businesses stay competitive, he emphasized.
Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said the chamber-WIB partnership ensures “employers are aware of resources available to them, especially in tough economic times when they can mean the most.”
Robbie Knight is the chamber’s new business services manager. Stanley said Knight is “the go-to person” for businesses that need help in developing their workforces.
Along with promoting workforce development, Keiper said, the chamber will keep pushing for improvements to local highways, schools and colleges.
“An efficient transportation infrastructure is critical to attracting industry and tourism to our community,” he said.
Getting the planned Interstate 73 built and finishing improvements to U.S. 58 are important along that line, he indicated.
Continued development of the New College Institute (NCI), as well as efforts to strengthen the curriculums of Patrick Henry Community College and public schools, also are critical to the community’s growth, Keiper said.
“The chamber has always taken a strong stance” in support of NCI, Keiper said.
“It is very important that we stay dedicated to ... turning Martinsville-Henry County into a community of economic prosperity” again, said Clay Campbell, president of the Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG) as well as the Martinsville Speedway.
C-PEG, an affiliate organization of the chamber, raises private funds toward economic development efforts. Campbell noted that in the past year, C-PEG awarded six area businesses a total of $30,000 in “existing industry grants” to expand or improve their facilities.
“In my view,” he said, the grant program is “one of the best pro-business resources this community has to offer.”
Henry County and Martinsville have changed a lot in the past 54 years, but one thing has been constant: the chamber’s devotion to the local business community, said Amanda Witt, president of the organization.
“Because the chamber is stronger today than ever before, it will continue to be a positive force in our community for many more years to come,” she said.
“We hope to make a real difference” in the community, Keiper said.