Chamber meeting

Barry E. Robertson hands over the gavel to new chairman Rod Nowlin at the 2018 annual meeting of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce Thursday at the Oxford Civic Center.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

OXFORD Rod Nowlin is ready to put Calhoun County to work.

Nowlin, appointed chairman of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, plans to focus the organization on helping create a workforce that fits the needs of area industries. The chamber announced its 2018 chairman and board of directors and highlighted ways it wants to help grow businesses and economic development during its annual meeting at the Oxford Civic Center Thursday.

Nowlin, Anniston-based customer service manager for the Alabama Power Co., said he wants to make workforce development the chamber’s top priority this year.

“We need to get workers prepared so that they can get jobs and businesses can expand,” Nowlin said. “If we don’t have a viable workforce, it’ll be hard to get new businesses to locate here.”

To accomplish the task, the chamber will expand its ongoing work between businesses and educational institutions like Jacksonville State University, Nowlin said.

“We’re bringing businesses and education together to learn what businesses need and what schools can provide them,” Nowlin said.

Nowlin said he also wants to improve membership involvement in the chamber this year.

“I’d like to see more members involved in our programs like our Business Expo and with our committees that work on a lot of different things,” he said. “Doing this, we can ensure we realize the chamber’s vision to promote and sustain the economic growth of the community.”

Nowlin took the chairman’s seat from Barry Robertson, who also serves as commissioner of licenses for the county. Robertson said the chamber accomplished much last year, most notably paying off its infrastructure debt.

“Paying off the debt was something the chamber put in motion years ago,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the chamber last year also created a new program for business executives.

“It’s a program for business owners and community leaders who want to be involved in the community, but who are busy and give as full an amount of time like they would in some of our other programs,” he said.

Nowlin said he also wants the chamber to start work this year on helping prepare the community for the 2020 U.S. census. The census, taken every 10 years, determines how many representatives states have in Congress. The census is also used to determine levels of federal funding given to communities for various programs and services.

“We’re going to come up with programs to get the word out about the importance of the census and make sure everyone gets counted,” Nowlin said.

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