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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

SML chamber committee focusing on entire county
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Monday, August 19, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

More than 30 people turned out for a meeting last week on enhancing the involvement of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rocky Mount and other areas of the county.

The meeting was held Wednesday at The Franklin Center and was organized by the chamber's Greater Franklin County Committee.

Adam Lynch, chairman of the committee, said a third of chamber membership is made up of off-lake businesses with many in Rocky Mount, Ferrum, Boones Mill and other areas of the county.

"We need to focus on these areas," he said, adding that the chamber wants to put more of an emphasis on the entire county, not just the lake.

"If we all work together, we do a lot of great things with the organization we already have in place," he said.

Vicki Gardner, executive director of the chamber, said Lynch has been working on the committee for some time.

"He is determined to help the business community succeed," she said, asking such questions as, "How can we link our resources to get the job done?"

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce folded in 2010 after seeing a drop in membership and revenue. The SML chamber has grown and now has about 650 members.

Gardner said one of the chamber's missions is to bring businesses together.

"We can't work in isolation," she said. "We need to know one another."

Mike Burnette, the county's director of economic development, was on hand and said it's important to have a network of businesses working together.

"They need to all be on the same page and form a strong business partnership," he said.

County Administrator Rick Huff also attended and pointed out that the chamber can identify the "external" needs to be accomplished, such as promoting the county and bringing in visitors.

The organization also should enhance "internal" functions, including business relationships, he said, creating a "value added" facet to members so belonging to the chamber will make their businesses more successful with the networking and exposure.

Several speakers said they miss having a chamber presence in Rocky Mount.

Kim English with STEP Inc. said she has "truly missed" the chamber and what the committee is attempting to do is "very much needed."

Becky Grindstaff with Fidelity Bank said "losing the chamber was devastating," but she has been impressed with the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber and what it has accomplished.

Dorothy Cundiff, executive director of the Retail Merchants Association, said nothing can be accomplished with a committee unless everyone works together.

"We know we have a wonderful county," she said, pointing out that the county has a rich history and many landmarks and legends. "We don't play them up enough."

Cundiff said the organization must have the full support of the town and county government as well.

"We (at RMA) will do all we can to help any organization that is trying to make Franklin County go forward," she said.

Charles Trelease, owner of Tiger Rents, said his business sees many newcomers to the county since it rents U-hauls.

"Many have questions about what to do in the county," he said, adding that it would helpful to him to have plenty of brochures and information available to promote the county.

Dick Shoemaker with Cable 12 said the committee is working on a "winning situation."

"This is the right way to go," he said.

Mary Wray, owner of the Artisan Center and Antiques and Collectibles of The Crooked Road on Franklin Street, said she welcomes more networking opportunities, and she encouraged other business owners as well as government leaders to make it a point to visit all businesses in the county.

"Some people never set foot in local businesses," she said. "We need to try to support each other."

Wray said it doesn't have to be a visit to buy something, but just to get familiar with businesses, what they offer and who runs them.

Lynch said the committee wants to help plan some events, including a moonshine festival, and do other things like set up an education program for upstart businesses.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11, but a location has not yet been determined.

 
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