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Chamber of Commerce can be a business’ best friend

June 13, 2009
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

One of the greatest challenges facing any chamber of commerce is that of providing services that make it worth being a member. Well, we all know that I suppose, but how often do we take stock of what the chamber does?

One of the more recent benefits of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce was the opportunity for its members and their employees to participate, free of charge thanks to the sponsorship of fellow member Allegheny Insurance Services, in a 10-hour OSHA course that generally would have cost $400 per person elsewhere. Admittedly, the course was open to non-chamber members as well, but members cannot deny that it was a worthwhile benefit.

Many membership benefits are derived through social networking and learning opportunities. One of the more popular social activities are the Business After Hours events such as that sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal last Monday evening at Graceland Inn.

Personally, I like to compare these events to playing golf. I have heard it said that more deals are struck on the golf course than anywhere else. I don't know if that's true or not, but whether golfing or enjoying a couple hours at a Business after Hours, each provides the opportunity to spend time with old, established business friends and make new ones not to mention the opportunity to "cook up a deal or two."

The quarterly meetings provide excellent opportunities to hear leading business executives, education experts, sales managers and leaders from the law, government and investment fields, to name just a few, share proven techniques and venture futuristic ideals. Last Wednesday's quarterly meeting featured Christa Hamra, general sales manager for The State Journal, speaking about ways of marketing business during a down economy.

Eggs and Issues is another popular event that follows a similar format, each of which is informative and enjoyable.

Another very popular event is the annual Legislative Breakfast hosted just prior to the state legislative session of the year. It is a forum of elected state government representatives to which the business community can express its concerns and present issues that they feel requires attention in the Legislature. Limited to 90 minutes, these meetings could go on for hours.

These are but a few of the benefits provided by the local chamber.

Our chamber has experienced a decline in membership because of the sagging economy. This, it seems, would be the time when business owners and executives would want the services of their chamber more than ever as a way of taking advantage of new marketing and promotional ideas made available by the chamber. At a time when advertising budgets are strained by cash flow restraints, the chamber of commerce is no less active in doing all it can to provide services and information that will benefit each of its members. The chamber is the one agency that takes the business of each of its members to heart and does all it can for each of them.

Years ago members of a Welcoming Committee greeted newcomers to Elkins with a "goodie bag" containing information on just about everything a newcomer could want or need. Having fallen by the wayside, the greeting service is about to be reinstated. Linda Rudy, Elkins depot volunteer coordinator, announced in an e-mail this week that members of the Depot Welcoming Committee will be greeting new arrivals with a "Newcomers Tea," the first of which will be in the Caboose Room of the Depot from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 28. In addition to greeting newcomers, the group will also be discussing dates for future meetings and "what direction the group would like to take."

Rudy said, "Rachel Hansford, staff member of the Welcome Center and the Rails & Trails Gift Shop, has done a wonderful job of setting up 'goodie bags' filled with items donated by area merchants. She has also done a lot of research on the Internet looking for ways to provide our newcomers with useful information to help smooth their transition to our area. Cass Shockley of the Welcome Center Board has also provided some excellent ideas.

"We need people who know the ropes to guide the newcomers," Rudy said. "It's always nice to have people on hand that can answer their questions and be available to provide information on the many issues that confront those moving into a new area."

According to Rudy, the gathering is open to anyone who has moved to Elkins in recent years and those interested in taking part in the program. She asked that those who wish to attend please call the Welcome Center at 304-635-7803 and RSVP so they may plan for refreshments. Interested parties may also RSVP by e-mail

Rail fans will be happy to know that the Cass Scenic Railroad will be operating one of its steam-powered locomotives out of the Elkins Railyard July 7-12. Ed Griesel, president of the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, made the announcement in an e-mail on May 10. According to Griesel, a member of the West Virginia Railroad Museum's board of directors, the museum has booked the Caboose Room during that time as a base for selling museum items. Griesel is looking for volunteers to help with the event. If you would like to help, give Griesel a call at 304-636-2903.

Another entertainment venue is in the making. Dennis Lively, owner and operator of the Web site Elkins Live in cooperation with members of the American Legion, is creating a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. The production, according to Lively, should be ready in late July or early August. The show will be staged in the banquet hall of the American Legion. Lively said the show is being written with a local flavor.

It appears that West Virginia's curvy, scenic roads are attracting more and more motorcyclists each year. Taken from The State Journal, here is a list of motorcyclist events taking place around the state this summer.

The second annual Motorcycle Festival will be in White Sulphur Springs on June 26-29. The 13-round AMA/ATVA-sanctioned Can-Am Grand National Cross Country race will be at Snowshoe resort from June 26-28. The West Virginia HOG (Harley Owner's Group) State Rally will be on July 15-18 at Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Timberline Four Seasons Resort in Tucker County. The Snowshoe Freedom Fest is scheduled for July 16-19. This event features a $10,000 poker run and live entertainment by Cowboy Crush and Trent Tomlinson. The Eastern National Rally of the Christian Motorcyclist Association will be at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds on July 21-25. Morgantown will be the hub for the fifth annual Wild & Wonderful Mountainfest event July 23-26. Travis Tritt and Buster "Cowboy" Brown will be performing. The Mountainman Rally in Pendleton County will take place July 30-Aug. 1. Eagle Mountain Ranch, a Christian retreat for families with special-needs children, hosts this rally. The Summersville Freedom Rally is planned for Aug. 15 in Nicholas County, and finally, the seventh annual Bike Night in Martinsburg is planned for Aug. 15. Main Street Martinsburg sponsors this event. Happy and safe riding, everyone.



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