Chamber of Commerce grows under new Carolina Foothills name

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sciacca says the chamber was impacted by the economy in 2008, but still had a positive year. The chamber added 46 members in 2008, about 16 percent less than in the previous two years when it added 55 to 56 members each year.

So far this year, the chamber appears to be adding members at a faster pace again, gaining 10 in the first two months.

The Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce now has 396 members, says Sciacca.

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&dquo;That&squo;s pretty good for a small area,&dquo; she said.

Citing the current condition of the economy, Sciacca said the chamber has adjusted its policy for payment of dues. She said the chamber is providing a grace period, allowing members to select an anniversary of their own to set as an annual date for payment. Some members have taken advantage of the policy, which provides them more flexibility, she said.

Sciacca discussed other activities at the chamber over the past year, including some of the following highlights.

&ull; The chamber held numerous after-hours events at different businesses throughout the county.

&ull; Another successful Shuckin&squo; & Shaggin&squo; was held for the 16th year. Sciacca said the chamber is making plans to attract more dancers, and hopefully sell 100 more tickets this year.

&ull; The 10th annual Otho Gibbs golf tournament was held at Meadowbrook.

&ull; The first Chamber Business Cup golf tournament was held and drew significant interest. Sciacca quipped that many players became eager to play after seeing the size of the tournament trophy. &dquo;It&squo;s a pretty big trophy,&dquo; she said.

&ull; The chamber held the 15th annual Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival, completing another year for the biggest event in the county. Sciacca noted that the hundreds of volunteers who contribute to the festival help reduce expenses for the big event and keep chamber dues low as a result. &dquo;The volunteers make it a success,&dquo; she said.

&ull; The chamber&squo;s foundation issued $13,249 in grants last year, including grants to FENCE, Tryon Elementary School, Harmon Field, Tryon Arts & Crafts, Thermal Belt Outreach, and Polk County Rescue

Dave Herbert of Watson&squo;s Flooring and Appliance also spoke during the chamber&squo;s awards dinner, providing more information about plans for a Buy Local campaign.

Herbert said the chamber studied about two dozens similar initiatives carried out in other areas, and believes it has a plan that will make the Buy Local campaign a big success.

&dquo;This time this is going to fly and the reason is because we not only have the full support of the (chamber) board and the Landrum area, but we are working with the Polk County Economic Development Commission and economic leaders in the market and we&squo;re galvanizing a strong base of support for getting this launched.&uot;

Herbert said the chamber plans to begin the campaign in the first couple weeks of April, and has pole banners, bumper stickers, window clings, brochures and other material to help spread awareness.

He said the chamber needs to help local consumers realize why they should avoid going outside the area if they can find the same product at a similar price here.

&dquo;All things being equal, local should be the tiebreaker,&dquo; said Herbert. &dquo;This is a really important thing we&squo;re doing here from a tax revenue, job creation, business preservation perspective. There are a lot of reasons why this is critical.&dquo;

Herbert added that the chamber is working on a Foothills Leadership Initiative to create a pool of leaders who can &dquo;step up and fill volunteer positions and serve on committees. He said such leaders have vast experience and can provide leadership quickly where it&squo;s needed.

Chamber officials also discussed at the annual awards dinner the plans for this year&squo;s barbecue festival. Sciacca said the chamber is planning new events and taking a little different approach this year that will directly benefit some area nonprofits.&bsp; Look for more coverage on plans for this year&squo;s barbecue festival later this week.