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CHRIS HARDY: What's in store for 2014

GUEST COMMENTARY: Chamber officials excited about two new programs this year

Chris Hardy (Special photo)

Chris Hardy (Special photo)

Since I arrived in Albany back in May 2012, I am asked each week what the Chamber has on the horizon? We added several new programs and services that we felt best fit our member business needs while initiating efforts to address greater needs in our community.

Though 2013 was an extremely successful year for both the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau, we believe 2014 will be a year where we establish ourselves as the leading organizations that greatly impact our existing business base.

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau will continue to work hard to provide the best business climate we possibly can while recruiting tourist related events to our community that will provide the greatest economic impact for our investment. We must never be satisfied with our successes as the old saying continues to remain true, “what have you done for me lately?”

The Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau continues to record astonishing numbers regarding economic impact from the sporting events, conferences, family reunions and general tourist related activities that embody their program of work. We are constantly working to recruit new and refreshing tourism related events to our community that will not only benefit our hotels, but also our restaurants, convenience stores, retail and service providers.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau provides an economic impact in excess of $200 million annually per the Department of Community Affairs. That is nearly a 2000 percent increase on investment based on the hotel/motel tax received each year. Our CVB continues to set the standard throughout the state on the effectiveness of Visitor Bureau’s and the impact they have on a community. I am proud to have the opportunity to work with such a dedicated group of people that truly understand the importance of making sure our visitors have the best experience possible during their stay.

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce plays somewhat of a different role in how we impact the community. Though we have some fantastic new initiatives that will be instilled in our body of work, there are two new programs that will take effect in 2014 that we are most excited about. First is in regards to a recent announcement that was made at our 104th annual meeting on Jan. 23. After more than a year of planning, the Chamber’s Leadership Development Division is ready to begin our newest program to shape our community in the future and it’s called “Leadership Institute.”

This program is a new and exciting Leadership Development effort with the curriculum being selected by many prominent and existing leaders in our community. Albany-Dougherty County has a distinct gap in generational leadership that we must begin addressing sooner rather than later. Where will our future business leaders come from, though just as important is how will they be developed? Leadership Institute will have a three-pronged focus; Personal and Professional Development will be the goal with the third and most important piece to the puzzle being Mentorships. It is not enough to train young professionals with the skills that we desperately need in our community without those that have obtained those skills helping them along the way.

This program will be exclusive to Chamber members only and we are looking for the best of the best in this first year’s class. Applications will be accepted beginning April 1 with a submittal deadline of June 1. Each participant selected to be a part of the inaugural program will be contacted by July 1. We are looking for those young professionals that strive to develop their personal and professional leadership qualities and abilities while aspiring to utilize those skills in our community, Albany-Dougherty County.

We will focus on training future business, civic and political leaders with neither taking on a greater amount of importance to the other. Our community needs all three in our opinion and we will use every resource we have available to us to ensure our community has the leadership it needs to sustain us in future years.

The final new initiative we are excited about is a new thing — shop local program — that our Small Business Resource Committee has been working on for a quite some time now. This will not be a campaign and this will not be seasonal. This program will primarily focus on what is becoming a growing trend in every community; the increase in online shopping over doing business locally.

Many of our small business members have an online presence and many do not. Those that do not have an online presence, we will work with them to maximize their marketing efforts and capture local consumers. For those that do, we will provide them with the tools and resources to capitalize on the power and strength of online marketing. Though technology will play a major role in this new program we will not forget about the most simple fundamental of doing business locally. We will work with each participating member business to remind local and visiting consumers that we have an abundant retail, restaurant and service industry base to satisfy any need that they may have.

If we can provide programs that will address the gap in leadership and assisting small businesses with the resources available to us, we will do the one thing that over 1,000 member businesses invest in our organization for...

“To promote and stimulate the economic well being of our membership through proactive and progressive programs, services and strategic alliances.”

Chris Hardy is president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.