01/26/09 — Wayne County Chamber of Commerce - Looking forward in 2009

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Wayne County Chamber of Commerce - Looking forward in 2009

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 26, 2009 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chairman Terry Jordan discusses the chamber's plans for boosting economic development in 2009.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce will be more proactive in 2009 and will continue to push for improvements in the county's education system, which Terry Jordan, the chairman of the chamber's board of directors, describes as the undergirding of the county's economy.

And with the national, state and local economy feeling the effects of the world-wide financial slowdown, it will be important for the chamber to reassess its programs and goals to make sure they are doing the most possible to keep Wayne's business community humming, he said.

Despite a bumpy 2008 and personnel issues that created some roadblocks, the chamber is prepared for the challenge, Jordan said.

"If I sit here and say that it didn't affect us at all, that would be unrealistic," he said of the past year's rough times. "It did have some effect on us, but did we get off track? No. Our chamber staff kept the ship sailing during tough times."

Jordan said the chamber needs to do a better job of letting the community know what it is doing, such as the work behind the scenes in bringing the county commissioners, the school board and the county's business leaders together.

It was a goal that last year's chairman, Geoff Hulse, was adamant about.

"I cannot think of anything more important, yes to the chamber and the future of business and society in Wayne County, but more importantly, for our children, than to resolve our educational problems," Hulse told a gathering of business and political leaders last January. "If it takes some hard decisions, if it takes some hurt feelings, fine. But the Wayne County commissioners, the Wayne County School Board and this business community need to continue to work together to try to straighten this mess out, and I'm here to say that the Wayne County Chamber wants to be a leader in the fight for our youth and education in our community."

Jordan said chamber director Steve Hicks said the chamber was very much involved with bringing the parties together to talk about schools and funding.

"From the very beginning, the chamber was at the table making sure the meetings occurred," Jordan said. "After the meetings, the chamber helped with teacher recruitment and workforce development."

Then, a new education council of chamber members was formed to help continue to aid the school system in resolving issues.

Jordan said the education council will keep working to ensure that meetings are happening and that progress is being made. The council members also will stay "at the table" until issues are resolved, he emphasized.

As a business booster, the chamber can do a better job of being an advocate for chamber members, Jordan said, by helping existing businesses with expansion plans.

It also can assist businesses during these rough economic times by holding forums, for example, at which bankers can get together and help business owners with financial issues, he added.

"I think we've done that to a certain degree, but we need to be more proactive," he said.

The chamber will work even harder at strengthening its role in promoting local businesses, Jordan vowed, noting the chamber's chosen theme for the year, "Pull and Push."

"We need people to shop in Wayne County whenever possible," he said. "We really need folks not to drive to Smithfield or Greenville or Raleigh to shop," he said.

The first step for the chamber, Jordan said, is to re-evaluate its existing programs and see if they are accomplishing the goals they were intended to accomplish. And to help with that, he and chamber staff are working on a survey that will focus on how chamber members perceive their organization and if they believe it is providing the value they expect.

The survey should be ready within the next 30 days. At its completion, a strategic session will be held with the chamber's board of directors, past chairmen of the board and city and county officials to determine what actions the chamber needs to take over the next five years to bolster the Wayne County economy.

And although Jordan says he believes the chamber is a "great organization," he doesn't want chamber members to fill out the survey based on what they think the board of directors and chamber staff want to hear.

"We need people to be very blunt," he said. "We might get our feelings hurt, but that's fine. Sometimes you need to get your feelings hurt to get better. ... In today's economic environment, if an organization isn't focusing on what you can do to get better, you might not be here next year."