Local Chambers join forces

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2005

AHOSKIE – It’s an idea whose time may have arrived.

For decades, the counties comprising the Roanoke-Chowan area have acted independently when it boiled down to economic development. What the leaders of these separate, but similar counties failed to see was that a combined voice was better than an individual whisper.

Last week at Catherine’s Restaurant in Ahoskie, those voices joined in a unified effort.

In a forum hosted by the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce, economic leaders from Bertie, Hertford and Gates counties came together to share ideas. Northampton County officials were invited, but did not attend.

&uot;We see this as a first step in the right direction,&uot; said Larry Joyner, President of the Ahoskie Chamber’s Board of Directors.

Joyner went on to say that this was an informal meeting, one planned as a &uot;get-to-know&uot; gathering.

&uot;This is a great way for us to network among ourselves, sharing ideas that will be beneficial to all of us,&uot; noted Phyllis Frymier, Executive Director of the Ahoskie Chamber.

The Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce brought a large contingent of members, headed by Board President Bill Stephens. Bertie/Windsor Chamber Director Patrick Demofonte was in attendance, as was Traci White of Gates County who is behind an effort to start a Business Association north of the Chowan River.

Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early was also present.

The evening’s featured guest was Rocky Lane of the Northeast Partnership, an Edenton-based organization that aids in the economic development of a 16-county region in eastern North Carolina.

The Partnership is a source for business training, helping to identity an employee base for prospective new industry and acts as a partner for funding resources.

Lane explained there are roughly 20,000 businesses in the 16-county area, but less than half of those have 50 or more employees.

&uot;Small business has long provided the backbone of our area of the state,&uot; Lane said. &uot;Helping small businesses to thrive is the key to the success of our future.&uot;

Lane said the notion of a regional Chamber of Commerce isn’t a bad idea.

&uot;When you get more people together, there are more voices to be heard,&uot; he noted. &uot;When more voices are heard, more people will listen.&uot;

One of the strengths of regionalism is joining together to promote existing business/industrial products generated within the 16 counties. The Northeast Partnership is already ahead of that particular game through its Northeast Buyer Supply Network.

Lane touted the Network, urging the group to use it to buy and sell locally within the 16-county region.

&uot;This is an effort to link buyers with suppliers in northeast North Carolina,&uot; Lane said. &uot;It’s an online procurement service that I urge all of you to check out and use. If you do not have your goods and/or services listed on the Network, I urge you to immediately do so.&uot;

The web address is www.buynortheastnc.com

The local R-C group agreed to meet again at a date and place that will be announced at a later time.