Spence wants to unify county through Chamber

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Members of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce enjoyed dinner, fellowship and classic music at the Henry Horton State Park restaurant on Monday night.

CHAPEL HILL - With a new president, members of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce joined in good fellowship during their annual Christmas party Monday.

"I want to get more and more members and unify the community," Chamber President Melody Spence said of her goals for her term as leader of the business organization. "We all work together."

Outgoing two-term president Mike Fox listed group accomplishments as: an Internet website with 10,000 hits per month; a county magazine welcoming visitors; hundreds of relocation packages distributed for prospective residents; over 50 ribbon cuttings, coffees and other events; uncounted tourists including two tour groups with about 400 people; and programs such as Member to Member to enhance shopping in the county for Chamber members.

"The Clutch Concert was a huge success," Fox said, noting that Santa will return to the Chamber next Christmas. "If anybody wants to be Santa, don't be bashful."

Emphasizing cooperation between groups, Mike Wiles, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, spoke to Chamber members about the economy and suggested ways to deal with it.

"We want to continue to work together ... to foster communication on economic development between government, business and private citizens," Wiles said.

The 2010 Census will include surveys sent to every household in February and March, he said. Statistics from the data will portray this market, so residents are asked to cooperate as much as possible.

"It will really help us out," Wiles said of the survey with 10 questions that can be answered in 10 minutes.

He recalled the sales tax decline after the ICP factory closed and with a passing reference to the closure of Sanford's pencil factory here, Wiles noted purchasing returned as the market improved here.

Now, Wiles said, "It's not as terrible as it seems in some areas."

Still, "Unemployment has hit us pretty hard," he said. It's been up to 16.9 percent. Marshall has had the state's third highest unemployment rate recently.

"Maury County is not as high as us now, but they could catch us," Wiles said when reports on GM say it could move production machinery from Spring Hill.

Nevertheless, two medical clinics have opened in Lewisburg and one restaurant opened that day. Another is to open soon and a third is planned in a building on Lewisburg's public square.

The Chamber dinner at the Henry Horton State Park on Monday night was Christmas party and even the night's entertainer, Sinatra impersonator Gary Burt, acknowledged the realities for the business group.

"I know how difficult it is to run a business," Burt said.

The 52-year-old power plant employee from Illinois has dubbed himself the Prairie Crooner and he sang songs to lift spirits and entertain the people.