Business community celebratesPublished 9:19am Friday, March 15, 2013
BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—Networking was the theme as board members of both the Isle of Wight-Smithfield–Windsor and the Franklin-Southampton Area Chambers of Commerce came together for a joint luncheon on Thursday.
“It is my hope that this event becomes an annual event,” said Michael Clark, president of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce. “We need to collectively come together more often to talk about issues and opportunities.”
Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn would also like to see the luncheon become an annual event.
“The event was great just to hear all of the different ideas from both chambers,” said Johnson-Ashburn. “Also for these business leaders to have the opportunity to come together and network.”
Renee Rountree was excited to have the opportunity for the two boards to collaborate.
“I am looking forward to coming together more often in the future,” said the IOWSW Chamber Chairwoman. “The future is in our hands for the business community of this region.”
The event showed the solidarity of the business community said Amanda Jarratt, president and chief executive officer for Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc.
“We are one region and one economy,” Jarratt said. “It was great to see everyone for such a positive event.”
Southampton Supervisor Ronnie West agreed. “This is more than a start,” West said. “I see now such a desire from all the partners and the strength of working together, after starting such a great working relationship with Franklin we can become more regional with our neighbors in Isle of Wight.”
Both chambers’ communities are facing similar problems, Clark noted.
“That is why my goal was to bring everyone together to share perspectives and knowledge, so we can demonstrate to our members that we are business advocates.”
The event, hosted by International Paper, allowed those in attendance to discuss new ideas, business problems in the past and opportunities for the future.
“We are very excited to host the luncheon today,” said International Paper Mill Manager Allison Magness. “As well as the opportunity to update leaders of the business community on the status of the mill.”
“For members of the community to come together in (the IP conference room) less than a year after the repurposing speaks volumes,” Jarratt said.
“It was a privilege to support our local community for today’s events,” said Jenny Hutto, communications manager for the International Paper Franklin Mill.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to say thank you for the support everyone has shown us since our operations began,” she said.
After the luncheon, attendees were taken on a tour of the repurposed fluff pulp mill.
“This is the second public tour of the facility since our start-up,” Hutto said. “We are limited to the number of tours we can accommodate at this time.”
Nearing the end of his one-year term as Chamber president, Clark conveyed his appreciation for the strides made by the board to improve the visibility and impact of the FSA Chamber. He noted that among other things, the Chamber’s primary focus this year was on visiting with members and growing membership.
“In this digital age of social networking, nothing replaces face-to-face meetings with businesses and asking what can our chamber do for you,” Clark said.
As a result, he noted that the FSA Chamber saw a 10 percent increase in membership during 2012. IOWSW Chamber Chairwoman Rountree reported similar positive results, stating that attendance at chamber functions was up 15 percent this year.
“The hard work the Chamber is doing is paying off,” Johnson-Ashburn said.