Business as usual: Calhoun County chamber teaming with area counterparts
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Feb 24, 2013 | 3687 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pooling the resources of several chambers of commerce in northeast Alabama is expected to improve tourism, marketing and economic development throughout the region, officials with the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce say.

The Calhoun chamber recently began the year-long collaboration, called Connecting our Greater Communities, with 11 of its counterparts in the surrounding counties.

The Calhoun chamber kicked off the event Feb. 1 at a gala it hosted for area chambers at the Speed Channel Dome at Talladega Superspeedway.

“We’re excited to work with the other chambers," said Julia Segars, chairman of the Calhoun chamber. “We want to roll up our sleeves and want this to be an inclusive process.”

Segars said the idea behind the initiative is for the chambers to work together for mutual benefit.

“It’s an effort to promote travel, tourism and a way to shore up workforce readiness,” she said. “We’ll be exploring marketing opportunities ... ways to attract businesses to the chambers.”

Segars, who became chairman at the gala event, said the initiative was one of her top goals for the year.

“The focus last year was connecting our local communities,” Segars said. “We had a wonderful year on that front and now we’re expanding to connect the greater regional community.”

Linda Hearn, manager of the Calhoun chamber, who has been with the organization for 22 years, said this is the first time it has ever attempted such a large regional partnership.

“We’ve always worked well together,” Hearn said of the other chambers. “But we’ve never done anything on a concentrated effort like this.”

Hearn said that during the coming months, Calhoun and the other chambers will work together on marketing, helping promote each other’s events and programs. Hearn noted that the Calhoun chamber will soon team with the Gadsden Chamber of Commerce for a business-after-hours event. The Calhoun chamber’s business after hours events offer residents a chance to meet with local business owners and learn about their services and products in a more relaxed, social setting.

“The more we can do together, the more we can achieve,” Hearn said.

Heather New, president of the Gadsden chamber, said the initiative will be a benefit for many area businesses.

“The prime purpose is to create a network of opportunities — so when services are needed outside one county, people will look at the surrounding counties first,” New said. “If you can’t find that pair of shoes in Anniston, you can come to Hicks Family Shoes in Gadsden before you go to Birmingham.”

New said the initiative will also benefit in the promotion of area events.

“We’d want help to spread the word about Riverfest and then if someone else has something they need promoted, we’ll reciprocate,” New said.

Jason Daves, president of the Talladega Chamber of Commerce, said he was big supporter of the initiative.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic idea,” Daves said. “There will be more money to reach out and promote and we’ll also have more to offer as a group.”

Daves said no one chamber has the resources to promote an area on such a large scale.

“I think we’ll be more successful with tourism ... and from a marketing standpoint, we’ll be more effective than if we were by ourselves.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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