02/12/04 — Mount Olive Chamber seeks better business climate

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Mount Olive Chamber seeks better business climate

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 12, 2004 2:02 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce will develop a check list to help new business owners navigate government regulations.

The chamber's board of directors set this and several other goals Wednesday during its annual planning session, held in the Historic Assembly Hall. Joanna Thompson, president of the Wayne County Economic Development Commission, guided the chamber members through the process.

After hearing reports about the past year, she told the chamber board that it has helped business owners get in touch with people they need to talk to and has eliminated obstacles and barriers to success.

The chamber makes business owners feel its not out there alone, "and you're part of a bigger picture," said Patsy Joyner, owner of the Ruffles and Bows women's wear shop downtown. It sounds insignificant, she said, but the chamber president, Patti O'Donoghue, "went walking with me looking at places" for a new shop after Ms. Joyner's first shop burned down last year.

Town Manager Ray McDonald said newcomers would pick up chamber membership right away if the chamber provided something like a checklist to help them gather all the information they need about government requirements and how to get set up in business.

"A lot of people don't know when you buy a business license what does it cover," said McDonald. "All that stuff could be handled so quickly if they had someone to sit down with them and explain it."

Mrs. O'Donoghue said she would love to have a checklist to give people coming to her office. She said it would also be helpful for chamber members who wanted to expand or move somewhere else in town.

The chamber's project of strengthening its relationship with its members climbed back on top of the priorities set for the coming year. Mrs. Thompson told the chamber board members they can pat themselves on the back for their efforts to reach out to the members on a one-on-one basis. During 2003, the chamber board members personally contacted 90 percent of the chamber's 227 members.

"People were so amazed we were calling and not asking for money," said Chris Martin, the member services chairman.

Several goals are to continue ongoing projects. "It's stuff you feel passionate about, because they keep coming up," Mrs. Thompson told the chamber board members.

The chamber board decided to also continue its efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community and to continue helping the Friends of the Park become more autonomous. "The Friends of the Park still aren't writing their own checks and doing their own work," said Mrs. O'Donoghue. "It's close, but they're still hanging."

One goal won't come up again. The chamber had promoted a bond referendum for the building of a regional sewer system in Mount Olive. The voters approved the referendum by a vast majority.

"When the chamber gets behind an issue, it has a good chance of succeeding," said Mrs. Thompson.

Last year was a good, productive year for the chamber, said past Chairman Drew Covert. It was fun, too, he said, and "it makes you feel good about what the chamber has done."

The chamber board also plans to investigate the possibility of forming a group called Chamber Ambassadors to help "the few who end up doing everything" with things like ribbon cuttings.

Another goal is to market the chamber better. There are some people who still don't know what the chamber is all about, said Julie Beck, chairman of the chamber board.

"Some how, we need to grow some more leaders," she said. "The same people are doing everything."