Since becoming the president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce in January 2011, Phyllis Thompson has honed the mission of the Chamber to meet the needs of local businesses in a struggling economy.
"This Chamber's mission is to enhance the economic prosperity of our 700 plus members and promote the free enterprise system in Bulloch County," Thompson said. "This is accomplished primarily through benefits that offer members visibility, voice and overhead reduction."
Thompson said visibility is created through web presence, vibrant committee activities, networking events, member-only referrals, creation and support for relationship building.
"Voice is provided through committees, Business Bulletin (newsletter) items, Chamber-adopted resolutions, and easier contact with local, state and federal officials," she said. "Overhead reduction is accomplished through discounts offered by insurance agencies, state programs (Drugs Don't Work/Worker's Comp), purchasing power alliances (health/dental/life, etc.), and member-to-member offers."
John Love, owner of Country Financial in Statesboro, has been a member of the chamber for a little more than a year.
"It is very helpful to my business," Love said. "I go to many of the events, network and meet people. We are a full service financial organization, so I am in a position to refer my clients to chamber members, and I do that a great deal."
Thompson said the Chamber has embraced social media and recognizes how important it has become.
"It used to be as a member you gave your name, number, and address for the membership directory," she said. "Businesses still provide those, but we also provide links to members' website and social media pages in their imbedded pages and can report the statistics to any member at any time."
Keely Fennell, co-owner of NeSmith Construction, currently serves as chairman of the Chamber's board. Fennell said the Chamber's focus is on bringing value to its membership.
"The economy over the last several years has been rough for everyone, and people are demanding more for their money," she said. "We recognize that the chamber must bring value to its members and its community. Through cost savings and educational programming, we need to continue to create benefits for our members."
Thompson said that creating value also means limiting the benefits to those who are members of the Chamber.
"This may be surprising to some, but we get a lot of calls from people asking about businesses in town," she said. "As an organization, our time and focus must be on businesses that we have a relationship with. If the business that they are asking about is not a member, then we tell them that we don't have information for them, and do not have the resources to go find it."
Thompson said she thinks it is extremely important that staff, the board of directors, and committee members visit chamber members to gather their input and opinion.
"Occasionally the membership committee will stage an "operation thank you" day where someone associated with the Chamber drops by to say thank you for your membership, make sure we have updated information, or just to listen to what's on their minds," she said. "We are here for our members, and our community, first and foremost."