Gaston & Catawba

Chamber program will help members cope with economy

The Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce is launching a series of new programs aimed at helping members cope with tough economic times.

Under the title “ChamberEdge,” the programs focus on energizing development, growth and enterprise among members.

One of the new initiatives is a series of free workshops on topics addressing managing a small business in an economic downturn.

The programs will be presented by professionals in the evening when business owners will be able to attend. One workshop per month is planned August through November.

Chamber president Ted Hall said membership has grown from 84 in 2005 to the current 310. Most are small businesses.

“A lot of them started when the economy was pretty good, and they haven't been faced with these kind of circumstances,” Hall said. “Money is tight, gas prices high and sales low. Smaller businesses don't have a lot of resources to hire a consultant or bring in an expert. We felt the chamber had an obligation to help our members.”

The first workshop is scheduled for Aug. 26 at Belmont Abbey College with check-in beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the program running from 6 until 8 p.m. The topic will be “Keeping Sales Up When the Economy Is Down,” presented by noted sales trainer Tim Dannelly. The workshop is being coordinated by the Small Business Center at Gaston College.

Other programs will be planned on such topics as controlling costs, managing finances, and creative marketing in tough times. Dates for the other three workshops are Sept. 18, Oct. 23 and Nov. 20.

All sessions will be held at the East Campus of Gaston College in Belmont. More details will be announced later.

A “Buy Local” campaign will be the second program in the series. “Stop, Look, Shop … Buy Local” is a marketing and promotional campaign designed to encourage chamber members and everyone else to support their local community businesses, especially when times are tough.

The chamber will be reminding residents to “Buy Local” in e-mails, publications and a public-service advertising campaign.

The third in the series to help members survive the downtown is a member-to-member discount program called “MoneySaver.” Montcross Area Chamber members will provide discounts on products and services to fellow members.

Chamber members can participate in the program at no cost, listing the discounts they offer on the chamber Web site. For example, a member needing an oil change could do business with a fellow member offering a special discount for the service.

Members will be able to update their discount offers quarterly. And new member participants will be added to the program monthly.

Hall said the organization has worked to keep the program as simple and easy to use as possible. No membership cards will be required. Chamber membership can be verified through the online member directory on the chamber Web site.

Chamber volunteer Annette Gehle of Cramerton helped develop and is coordinating the MoneySaver program.

For more information, call Hall or the chamber at 704-825-5307, or send e-mail to info@belmontchamber.com.

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