WILLIAMSON - “Five years from today, what would you like to be able to proudly say has changed and occurred within the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce?” asked Pauline Sturgill, Director of Community & Leadership Development for the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College (SWVCTC), as she served as the Facilitator of a Strategic Planning Session for chamber board members.
The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit membership organization that acts as the voice for businesses and tourism and is driven by a vision to ensure the Tug Valley is a vibrant place to do business, work and live.
The strategic plan outlined and explained by Sturgill provides an overall framework for action during a five year plan (Jan. 2012 – Dec. 2016) with the intent to supply clarity, inclusivity and relevancy.
Sturgill spoke of the importance of economic development, community development and membership growth to achieve this goal. TVCC board members attending the “brain storming” session interacted with Sturgill, voicing their ideas and opinions as to changes that need to occur and what they thought it would take to accomplish that goal.
The organizations’ membership has dwindled throughout the years, and Sturgill led a group discussion of what could be done to remedy that situation. TVCC Executive Director Natalie Young commented that there are approximately 100 current members.
“Sadly, there are a lot of businesses and individuals who aren’t clear on the chambers purpose, or what it can do for them,” stated former TVCC president Kyle Lovern, who now serves as a board member. “It’s fairly impossible to recruit new members when they can’t see where and how they would benefit from joining.
“We need to market the chamber in every way possible.”
Sturgill spoke of how the chamber has to promote their vision, ideas and beliefs and identify their top priorities and goals, creating a road map from where it is now and where it needs to be in 5 to 10 years.
She gave examples of plans implemented at other chambers and the benefits they had reaped from the changes, saying that building a solid relationship with the County Commission and Redevelopment Authority was one vital key to success. One other obvious necessity, according to Sturgill, is increasing your numbers.
“Define a territory that you want to recruit from,” said Sturgill. “Don’t spread yourself to thin because then – you’re not effective. You can always expand your boundaries as time goes on.”
Board members agreed that an approximate radius of 30 miles in any given direction of Williamson would encompass all of Mingo County and several Eastern Kentucky communities, and would become their target areas for obtaining new members.
Current TVCC President June Blevins remarked that the bylaws for the group are being rehashed, and said some changes would be happening. She also touched on the subject of additional committees being formed and the importance of imposing rules and regulations.
The role of chamber board members was discussed, and the group in attendance agreed that, as stated by Leann Ray, Mingo County Grant Coordinator/Project Manager, they need to serve as ambassadors for the chamber, representing the group in a positive, dedicated manner.
“They need to be active – not absent,” Williamson Mayor and Bank of Mingo Branch Manager, Darrin McCormick, who also serves on the board, said.
The group agreed that those serving in this capacity should make a definite attempt to attend any and all sponsored events if at all possible, including meetings, business after hours, ribbon cuttings, etc.
“We should set the agenda as an example of what chamber members should be,” said board member Charley McCoy, who represented the First National Bank of Williamson. “We have to have a commitment to be active.”
Several additional subjects were discussed including establishing and implementing core values for the organization, becoming a network builder, partnering with other chambers throughout the state to promote tourism, and how to actively recruit new businesses to the county.
Board members attending the planning session other than those mentioned above include Joyce Roddy, Johnny Branch, Judy Harvey, Marvin Vanatter and Shannon Ingram, who was the representative for Appalachian Regional Hospital.
Executive Director Young, along with all board members, encourage the public to get involved with their organization.
To become a TVCC member, you may visit their office located inside the Historic Coal House on 2nd Ave. in Williamson, or by calling 304-235-5240 for more information.
“We know these problems didn’t form overnight, nor can they be solved overnight,” said McCoy. “But with commitment, dedication and a solid plan in place – we’ll get there soon.”