Eight Questions with Dr. Deidre Martin

Chair, Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce

What do you see as your role as the 2014 Chair of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce?

The highest honor I have as Chamber Chair is to represent the interests of our membership which I am proud to say is now 1,120 members strong!  I take very seriously my responsibility -- and that of the Chamber Board -- to be an advocate and voice on issues important to the business community.

The Aiken Chamber is known for focusing on the horizon.  What does this mean?

One of the best things a Chamber can do for its community is to bring folks together to collectively plan for the future.  I’ve heard it said that if you think you’re standing still, you are actually falling behind. There is no doubt about it; Aiken is a very special place. While I think we all share a common feeling of love for our community, I believe we do our community a disservice if we don’t work together to focus on the horizon and how we can be better.

What are the goals and initiatives in the Chamber’s 2014 program of work?

The key words that will define our work this year are Economic Vitality. A thriving business climate is the number one factor in identifying a successful community. We’ll focus our work in three key areas: (1) Expanding the Chamber’s Economic Vitality emphasis; (2) Elevating the critical role of education as a tool to support Aiken’s economic vitality; and (3) Establishing an annual community benchmarking process to aid in community decision making. 

How were these goals and initiatives determined and why are they important?

I am proud of the work the Chamber did last year to focus on Aiken’s future through the Blue Ribbon Panel. We brought together a group of community leaders and strategic thinkers to spend time looking ahead to Aiken’s “next big idea.” The Chamber’s Board of Directors spent time looking at the 29 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel and shaped those recommendations into the initiatives and goals for 2014. But it’s important to point out that this is an evolving process and a multi-year plan. The overall result of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s work will guide our Chamber in the years to come and provides a blueprint for how we can work together to make our community even better. 

The Chamber is seen as the “voice of business.”  How will these goals and initiatives help the business community?
At the Chamber, we take our role as the “voice of business” very seriously and that includes listening to the challenges and issues facing our business community.  Each of our goals and initiatives is guided by these overarching principles:

• Allow businesses to grow and thrive
• Free businesses from excessive taxes, unnecessary regulations, and onerous local government processes
• Focus government on the critical tasks that are the foundation of economic opportunity, such as infrastructure and protective services
• Help educate, cultivate, and equip the next generation of young entrepreneurs and the workforce of the future

How will these goals and initiatives help the community at large?

The Chamber board is united in our belief that having a vital and growing business community is critical to the overall quality of life for our community. 

Are there opportunities for partnerships and collaboration with other entities?  If so, please explain.

The 2014 program of work is based on the need for public and private partnerships with a focus on those things that promote job creation and upward mobility.  The Chamber believes it is essential for business and the public sector to seek out common ground and to find ways to bolster each other.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I’ve been part of the Aiken community for more than 25 years. I’m so proud to be part of this community and feel it is a privilege to serve in this role at the Chamber if I can play even a small part in making our community a better place now and in the future. I am a firm believer that the actions we take today are planting the seeds for the future generation, and that it is so important for all of us to take that “long view” if we truly love this community – which I do!  And as David Jameson (Chamber President/CEO) would say, “If you’re lucky enough to live and work in Aiken … you’re lucky enough!”

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