June 13, 2007 Edition

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Organization of Chamber explained

Clay Sloan
Guest Writer

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, in one form or another, has been around for many years. I am unsure of the exact date of its founding, but if you have ever been to the chamber's office you have probably seen the large display hanging on the wall showing all the past chairmen. The earliest chairman listed on the display is Jim Bland, Sr., in the year of 1944. That shows that the organization has been around for over 60 years. It began as the Walnut Ridge Chamber of Commerce, but was expanded to include all of Lawrence County several years ago.

Recent articles written about the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce have done a superb job in expressing the need of unity and commitment from the county's population, which is something I feel is the key to the success of our community. In this article, I will attempt to inform you of the organizational structure of the Chamber and how you can assist in its economic development endeavors.

The Chamber is composed of members comprised of both business entities and individuals. At the present time, there are 209 members. Every year the members select three individuals to serve as directors on the organization's board for a four-year term. The board consists of 13 directors. For 2007, the board is composed of Keith Brand, Bill Wilcoxson, Karen Williams, Sherry Moore, Junior Briner, Terry Ryan, John Allen, Danny Gibson, Steve Trail, Mike Montgomery, Gretchen Hunt, Debbie Smith and myself. All these individuals listed have strong personal and economic ties to the county and all are devoted to its development and prosperity.

The board regularly meets during the noon hour on the first Tuesday of every month. Special meetings to discuss more detailed topics are held and are not uncommon. All meetings are held in the Chamber office. The county judge and all city mayors are ex-officio members of the board and are always notified of board meetings.

There are six primary committees of the Chamber. There is the Executive Committee, the Economic Development Committee, the Events Committee, the Banquet Committee, the Marketing Committee and the Membership Committee.

The Executive Committee consists of Karen Williams, vice chairman of the Chamber; Junior Briner, chairman-elect; Keith Brand, past Chamber chairman; Sherry Moore; and myself, current chairman. Meetings are held monthly, one week prior to the regular board meeting. The committee reviews issues that are to be brought before the board, makes recommendations to the board and decides issues that do not require board approval.

The Economic Development Committee is chaired by Milton Smith. Its members consist of Keith Brand, Vickie Mitchell, Terry Ryan, Junior Briner, Leah Osbahr John Allen, Hoxie Mayor Donnie Roberts, Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers, Lawrence County Judge Alex Latham and myself. The committee meets monthly and its primary task is to promote economic development and to meet with prospective industries wanting to locate in Lawrence County.

The Events Committee is chaired by Karen Williams and meets monthly. In April, the committee planned and sponsored the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races that were held at the Walnut Ridge Airport. The committee is currently planning and organizing the fall festival, scheduled to be held in October.

The Banquet Committee is chaired by Sherry Moore. The primary responsibility of this committee is to organize and plan the Chamber's quarterly meetings and annual banquet. A quarterly meeting is planned at this time to be held in the Hoxie Service Center on June 22. State Senator Robert Thompson will be the guest speaker.

The Marketing Committee is chaired by Gretchen Hunt. At present she and Terry Ryan are working on establishing a better and more functional website for the chamber. The committee is working closely with Williams Baptist College on the website.

The Membership Committee is chaired by Debbie Smith and is charged with maintaining and promoting membership in the chamber. A membership drive is currently being planned.

I hope this article helps explain how the Chamber is organized and how it functions. Since I have become Chairman, many people have asked me what they can do for the Chamber and for Lawrence County. The answer is simple. First, join the Chamber. An individual membership is only $25 per year. Most of the Chamber's funding comes from membership dues. Second, volunteer to help out with Chamber activities. Working together and mutual support is the key.

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