What is the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce?

As we enter the New Year, I will be sharing with you information about events, activities and news at the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce. It will be my goal to educate the public about the important role of the Chamber in our county. I also hope to give to you an insight on some of the issues that the Chamber deals with on a daily basis, most importantly economic development issues which impact our county and the municipalities within the county.

Just what is the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce and how does it work?

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization of the business community. It is a private, non-profit organization. The Chamber works to unite industry, agri-business, retail, commercial, and professional businesses to improve the business environment and build a stronger community. It is not a civic club, charitable organization or department of the city or county government.

The mission of the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce is to enhance the economic environment for its business, agricultural and professional members through advocacy and promotion, while striving to enhance the quality of life for all citizens.

The Chamber is strong because of its members. Membership is the most important component of the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce. Our strength is our members and attracting the greatest number of members which in turns creates a generous resource of ideas and energy. There is an old saying, ‘there is strength in numbers” and this is especially true in the Chamber as all members have something to contribute and bring to the table. The more active the membership, the easier it is for the Chamber to meet our goals and carry out our mission statement.

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to retaining, recruiting and expanding business, industry and entrepreneurship in our community. Local support is key to maintaining a thriving local economy. This is the reason why the Berrien Chamber encourages everyone to shop locally and support our small businesses throughout our county. This is why we strive to promote Buy Berrien.

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a Chairman, 1st Vice-chairman, 2nd Vice-chairman, Secretary and Treasurer and sixteen Board members. In addition, the Board also seats Ex-officio members who are representatives from the City of Nashville, City of Alapaha, City of Enigma, City of Alapaha, Berrien County Board of Commissioners and Berrien County School Board.  Goals and activities are determined by the Board of Directors and executed by the staff of the Chamber with Crissy Staley serving as Executive Director. Linda Shaw is our Office Manager with myself serving as an Event Coordinator. We have also just welcomed Ben Murray to our staff through the Berrien High School Work Based Learning Program. Ben will be serving as our Social Media Intern.

The 2016 Board of Directors are Bo Lovein, Mike Burch Ford, Chairman; Faye Jernigan, Jernigan’s Farm Supply, First Vice Chairman; Charles Blewett, Lovein Funeral Home, Second Vice Chairman; and Lisa Carter, Harvey’s, Secretary/Treasurer. Board members are Ann Baldree, Chaparral Boats; Darlene Barrentine, Main Street Salon; Steve Conner, Dupont Pine Products; Clayton Danforth, The Danforth Company; Rebecca Davis, AgGeorgia Farm Credit; Caitlyn Giddens, Ageless Creations; Hiram Griffin, Huddle House/Four Guys Shell; Hayden Hancock, Atwater & Houston; Ryan Hancock, Wells Fargo Advisors; Col. Nick Lacey, United Air Force, retired; Alonzo Martinez, Puerta Del Sol; Jennifer McMillan, Southern Grace Farms; Stephanie Patterson, SGMC Berrien Campus; Gregg Ray, Howard Ray Construction; Bill Tillman, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College; and Kimberly Wood, Dixie Sales and Adult Education Instructor.  Ex-Officio Board members are Michelle Cooper, City of Enigma; Mayor Wayne Gulley, City of Ray City; Brenda Ferrell, Berrien County Commission; Mayor Michael Richbourg, City of Nashville; Danny Hayes, Berrien County School System; and Deidra Powell, City of Alapaha.

The goals for 2016 are to continue to promote local shopping through the Buy Berrien initiative, recruit homegrown businesses and work to expand existing businesses, promote Berrien County’s Agri-tourism attractions through the Georgia Grown Trail 37 Association and other Agri-tourism opportunities, host and participate in legislative events, continue to recruit new members with a goal of 240 members by the end of year, host educational seminars/webinars that address the expressed needs to the new membership, continue to support local education goals of the Berrien County School System and partnerships with Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, participate in and support the South Georgia Military Affairs Committee and Moody Air Force Base, partner with local agencies and attractions to increase tourism activity by incorporating activities identified by the Tourism Product Development Team, coordinate one membership activity per quarter and continuing to host several annual community wide events and festivals focusing on increased attendance.

I am looking forward to sharing with our citizens the events, activities and educational opportunities the Chamber has to offer. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for this column, give me a call and let’s chat!