Editor’s Pen: Fayetteville and Cumberland County Need a Strong Chamber of Commerce

Last Thursday, April 21, we were fortunate to host the April Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club. Up and coming every week has been a member and advocate of the Chamber of Commerce for twenty-six years and has sponsored this event for over fifteen years. It has always been a fun, enjoyable and rewarding experience. This year, the timing was almost perfect. After two years of COVID restrictions, local economic and entrepreneurial opportunities are abundant. Organizations like the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and established businesses like ours are vitally important to the development of new businesses and their ultimate success. The Coffee Club is just one example of how our chamber provides value to its members.

Thursday’s event was graciously hosted by chamber board chair Tammy Thurman, director of community relations for Piedmont Natural Gas. Also present were several other members of their board of directors, but not to the level of attendance one would expect from an organization with more than twenty board members; members of the business community responsible for providing leadership, vision and guidance to this growing business community.

The chamber’s mission statement describes its purpose: “Our organization serves as a catalyst in the growth of a healthy business community through our advocacy of business-friendly public policy, promotion of initiatives diverse and innovative businesses and delivering valuable programs and services to our members – all made possible through strong collaborative partnerships.

Well, then, they have to start because there is a lot of work to be done in these areas. And, if the excitement and organization of this latest event is any indication of things to come, then I commend Thurman and the few notable board members who took the time to attend: the effervescent master ceremonial Gary Rogers, the Fort Bragg garrison commander, Col. Scott Pence, CEO of the Public Works Board Elaina Ball, Acting Chairman of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Randy Fiveash, and Robert Van Geons of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development. A small sample of the prestigious board responsible for the mission statement quoted above.

The Chamber’s leadership, direction, vision and support are essential in developing new businesses and helping existing businesses take advantage of economic opportunities. Successful and growing communities all have strong and well-established chambers. And all influential chambers have talented and dedicated leadership with business acumen, vision and respectability. These chambers have little or no dependence on local government agencies for funding. Vaults are self-sustaining, utilize local partnerships, fundraise effectively, and maintain an engaged and loyal membership base. A vault is best achieved by providing value to members. Creating value and loyalty is accomplished by setting a good example, being a loyal and vocal supporter, and standing up for all local businesses and organizations.

For whatever reason, our Chamber of Commerce has become sidelined over the past few years, becoming irrelevant to the business community by not engaging and taking a stand on important issues that impact local businesses, chamber members and the community. However, I see that changing for the better. This year we see new faces and personalities on the Board. Experienced leaders who understand business and, more importantly, the uniqueness of this community and the need to be informed and involved in the important issues that affect business and economic growth, are stepping up.

They understand that the chamber serves all businesses in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

I hope they realize and take seriously that Fayetteville and Cumberland County are unique, with very different business and community environments than other cities and towns across the country. To be successful here and to make positive change, one must recognize and understand the nuances of this community. An effective chamber understands the diversity of the community.

They know that our media (or lack thereof) impacts business; we need to stay informed about important issues related to our business. They need to know the economic impact of Fort Bragg on our community and how military turnover influences almost every aspect of our lives.

Yes, Fayetteville and Cumberland County need a vault. It’s a fabulous community with amazing opportunities. With a new chamber council recently installed, hopefully we’ll see an aggressive future vision.

Thurman understands, as do the board members who attended the Coffee Club last Thursday. Hopefully the rest of the board will follow suit.

Thanks for the reading Up and coming every week.