2010 Chamber Chair: A Candid Chat
Aiken Chamber Chair Liz Stewart, Stewart and Associates, sees the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce from numerous perspectives, including those as a small business owner. This past year she interacted in various capacities with business and community leaders and learned about the many facets that make up the Chamber. Now, as she gets ready to turn the reins over to a new chair, she shares her thoughts on the organization she led the past 12 months.
What makes the Aiken Chamber of Commerce unique?
I think one of the attributes of the Aiken Chamber is that it is flexible in its approach to how it works to grow our economy and support business needs. The organization follows its program of work each year, but if a need or issue arises, the Chamber responds. The current "Shop Aiken" ad campaign is a prime example. In a recent survey of the membership, we asked what the Chamber could do for them in the short term, and they asked us to reinforce the Shop Aiken message, and we are doing that. Last year, when the City asked for the Chamber's input on the Highway Overlay District Ordinance, we responded. Yes, the Aiken Chamber does mean business.
What was 2010 like for the Aiken Chamber of Commerce?
It definitely was an action filled year with numerous opportunities. We worked to keep our members informed on local, state, and national issues and hosted visits with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, 3rd Congressional District candidates, and Representative Tom Young. We had several timely professional development seminars for our members. We hired a manager of Equine Development and completed two equine initiatives. And we saw the Aiken Young Professionals complete a strategic plan with definitive goals and also host their first community service event in support of Celebrate Aiken.
We worked on issues that will shape our economy for years to come, such as seeking ways to provide community support for growth and development opportunities at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL). And we supported the Aiken County School Bond Referendum because our public education system has definitive facility and technology needs. Although the voters did not agree with the referendum, I feel the whole process heightened awareness of our schools' needs, and I look forward to future progress in this area.
Where do you see the Chamber headed in the future?
I see the Chamber building upon its past successes and remaining steadfast in its mission of creating opportunities for members to build successful businesses and to enhance the quality of life.
The Chamber will continue to focus on timely initiatives, such as our Equine industry, with the pursuit of a countywide open space/integrated trail system and an International Horse Park, and our Aiken Young Professionals and their strategic goals with a vision that focuses on three areas - networking, community service, and educational events designed to nurture future leaders of the Greater Aiken area.
The Chamber will also continue to monitor issues, and to pursue initiatives and interests in several areas that impact our members and our community - transportation, education, the future workforce, and owning a piece of the Nuclear Renaissance.
What would you like to say about your year as Chair of the Chamber Board?
This year has been a fast-paced, action-filled service opportunity for me. We have worked hard to fulfill our commitment to the business community. It has been a pleasure to work with our board - a dedicated group of professionals working as a strong team. The tremendous amount of work accomplished this year is in no small part attributable to our phenomenal professional staff at the Chamber and their efforts that go above and beyond. My year has been filled with professional collegiality, friendship and gratitude for being given the honor to serve.