TAKE 5: Chamber president: Area on track to 're-energize'
This week, we Take 5 with Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. Joyce succeeded Molly Dowdy as Chamber president in 2007. In a varied career in both public and private industry over 40 years, Joyce says this is the best job he's had because it allows him to brag about the community he loves so much. Although the job has many challenges, Joyce says it is always exciting to come to work each day to serve members, sell others on our community and help us be the best we can be.
When and where is the Chamber banquet — and are tickets available for the event?
This is our 76th year as a formal organization, although we existed informally for about 20 years before 1938. Our annual meeting has been a traditional event for at least 40 years. This year's banquet is Wednesday evening, March 12, at 6 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. Tickets are available at the Chamber office or by calling (919) 775-7341.
What all is scheduled for the Chamber banquet program?
This year, the event starts with a business social at 6 p.m. featuring a quartet from the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra. This is a great opportunity to get up to speed on everything going on in business. Dinner begins at 6:30 catered by The Flame Steakhouse. The program includes the presentation of the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award, recognition of outgoing board of directors members, introduction of 2014 Chamber officers and an update about the Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity (SLCPP). We'll have you home by 8:30.
What is the theme of the banquet and why?
Our theme for this year's annual membership meeting is "Re-energize!" After nearly five years of a very difficult business climate for Broadway, Sanford and Lee County, we are finally re-emerging as a local economic power.
Simultaneous to the rollout of the Second Century branding effort — Well Centered — in the fall of 2008, the global economy sunk to its lowest level in a generation. Our community saw unemployment levels that were unprecedented. Manufacturing, our strong suit for 100 years, was hit hard by job reductions. Consequently, plans for community marketing and promotion were put on hold.
The bad economy led to lots of questions and squabbles among ourselves about proper goals and direction. Now, as our unemployment level has dropped below 9 percent for the first time in 18 quarters, manufacturing has led us back. The Chamber and EDC are preparing to lead the Lee County business community back to prominence as one of the elite small communities in N.C. and the Southeast.
What other activities are going on at the Chamber at this time?
First and foremost on our agenda is the SLCPP economic development fundraising campaign. For the next six months, our leadership will be focused on gathering the resources to promote the community, recruit new business and help existing business expand, and develop the best workforce in N.C.
Other major community-wide initiatives include engaging the community to support new infrastructure in education and parks. And we are always busy with our signature Chamber events, such as Sanford Arts & Vine Festival, Small Business Expo, Small Business Banquet, Teacher of the Year, Safety Awards and Chamber Clays Championship.
What changes do you see for the business community in 2014?
We will see continued growth and some major announcements at Tramway and the South Horner area. I think these announcements will include a new hotel and several national retail stores.
As we grow and competition becomes greater, we will see small, locally owned businesses under increasing pressure. As everyone knows, we've lost several long-time merchants and businesses during the downturn.
This unfortunate marketplace phenomenon will continue, but we can help local merchants stay competitive by relying on their best weapon — special customer service. Take advantage of it. Spread the word to newcomers in your sphere of influence and in every organization in which you are involved. Recommend a local business. If you do, then what made us unique as a community will survive and thrive.