3 minute read

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR

Our Chamber… Expanding the Possibilities

Sharon Ponder, Vice President of Finance at the Bennett International Group and 2019 Chair of Henry County Chamber of Commerce
Sharon Ponder.

Well I can’t believe that 2020 is upon us. It seems like yesterday I was standing at the podium at our Annual Banquet accepting the Chairperson gavel from Wayne Lowrey. But although this year has turned out to be one full of events – as I reflect back on the accomplishments of the Chamber it makes all of the hard work well worth it.

We started off the year finding our selves in a precarious position of having to replace our President and CEO David Gill. We knew that this would be a daunting task because David had been such a rock to the chamber for many years. We knew that the relationships and connections that he had would take a lifetime to develop but we were able to engage a search firm that would assist us in finding our next CEO.

Joe Henning started at the Henry County Chamber in late May and we have been off to the races ever since. One of the tasks that I wanted to accomplish during my tenure was to ensure that our membership receives added value as a result of being a member of the chamber. But we decided it wasn’t up to us (the Board of Directors) to determine what equates to added value; we need to ask our partners. So shortly after Joe arrived, he along with his staff, administered a survey to our membership. Joe was able to analyze the data accumulated from the survey to help us determine and prioritize the needs, wants and issues of the chamber membership. This very insightful data has become the source document that we have used and are using in developing programming and action plans for the Chamber.

2019 has been an amazing year for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce!

One of the data points gathered from the survey is that members wanted more access to business development training. The Chamber was able to reestablish relationships with the Clayton State College SBDC as well as SCORE to offer free one on one sessions for both members and nonmembers. Reestablishing that relationship with SCORE has given SCORE a South Metro presence that has long been missing. This was evident with available appointments filling up days prior to their arrival. And the very first time we had a SBDC representative at our location we had a young lady waiting at the door for us to open. During the second set of counseling sessions with the SBDC our requested counseling sessions more than doubled. Again, we are listening to our members and adding services that they need and want.

We also accepted the challenge of advocating for SPLOST V. The mission of the Chamber is to be the voice of the business community - and in listening to our business partners we overwhelmingly voted in favor to advocate for the passing of SPLOST V to keep progress moving forward in Henry County. So, we set out to attend community meetings, political forums, placing signage, producing infographic flyers and videos, as well as hiring mobile billboards to get the word out about SPLOST V. All of this hard work culminated with a near 54% passage.

All of these additional major projects have been accomplished in conjunction with all of our other traditional programs. The Education Committee kicked off the year with the Star Student- Teacher Breakfast and closed out the summer with the annual TIP Luncheon. Our Government Affairs Committee once again executed a successful Henry Day at the Capitol. We had over 60 community leaders travel to Columbus, GA, to discuss prevalent issues that needed to be tackled within the county. And this year we have had record crowds at our Business Booster Luncheons and our Business After Hours events.

So as you can see we have accomplished a lot in 2019 and as I turn over the reign to Christy Chewning in 2020 – using the data gathered at our Intergovernmental Retreat and our Survey - the Chamber has developed a solid Program of Work that will propel us into the next year. I am proud to say that in 2019 the Henry County Chamber of Commerce has truly…. Expanded our Possibilities.