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Chamber members celebrate a year of growth

Though he couldnít be at the meeting, James C. Hobart Award recipient Mike Currier took a few minutes via cell phone to thank everyone as Executive Director Scott Stephens and Leslie Dion listened in. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
May 02, 2012
PLYMOUTH—Members of the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Common Man Inn last week for the chamber's 20th Annual Meeting.

Several prominent community members and businesses were honored at the event during the evening's awards presentations.

BetterBuildings, the local program established through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, received this year's Green Award for demonstrating "exceptional commitment to energy conservation."

"Using federal funding and local partnerships, Plymouth BetterBuildings is one of three New Hampshire towns providing their communities with easy access to cost effective energy efficiency improvements," said the Chamber's Executive Director, Scott Stephens. "They are helping create a more comfortable home, better businesses with a stronger bottom line, and a community that can serve as an example for others around the state."

The Chamber Champion Award went to Jim Doherty for his extraordinary support of the Chamber and its mission as a representative of the Plymouth Senior Center.

"He has been a stalwart advocate of the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce and the regional business community," said President of the Board of Directors Carol Marhan. "He works diligently on the Annual Auction Committee and the Golf Committee, soliciting donations in support of the work of the Chamber. Jim supports the Chamber and its members by his frequent attendance at Business After Hours"

Doherty's hard work and involvement in the community have helped the Chamber to grow and move in a positive direction.

"Well known in our community, he always contributes meaningful insight and valued perspective," said Marhan. "When you think of the past 20 years of our Chamber of Commerce growing and evolving, you cannot help but think of Jim and his inspirational dedication."

The final award for the night was the James C. Hobart Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service to the greater Plymouth business community.

"Established in 1994, the James C. Hobart Award is presented annually to the individual or organization deemed by the Chamber to best exemplify the spirit of volunteering and level of dedication displayed by Jim Hobart in first establishing, then nurturing the development of Plymouth's volunteer organization in service to business," said Marhan.

Mike Currier, a guidance counselor at Plymouth Regional High School and the brains and driving force behind the Plymouth Skate Park project was the recipient of this year's Hobart Award. Though he was not in town to accept the award, he spoke briefly to the packed room through his cell phone.

Stephens then highlighted some of the main events and accomplishments in Plymouth for the Chamber and its members over the past year.

"Two years ago, we were awarded a two-year USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to provide technical assistance to small and emerging businesses, regardless of Chamber affiliation," said Stephens.

Over the past two years, Marck Scarano and the Grafton County Economic Development Council assisted the chamber's efforts. Kim Bearwood Smith also joined the Chamber over the past two years as part of the grant as the program's Business Development Officer, helping business of all types with the assistance and connections they need.

"According to the USDA, the Plymouth Regional Chamber is the only Chamber in New Hamsphire providing this level of technical assistance programming to their business community," said Stephens.

Another highlight comes from the exclusive partnership the Chamber has established with Plymouth State University.

"The many committees, projects and collaborations we work together on are paramount to our success," said Stephens. "A day does not go by that I am not working with someone from the administration, faculty, support staff, or the student body. As some of you may have heard, we have developed an exclusive partnership with Plymouth State University to manage their Savage Welcome Center at the ice arena."

Stephens hopes that with signage on the highway and full staff year-round, the Welcome Center will be the premiere welcome center in the region.

Another noteworthy program the Chamber found to continue to be successful is the monthly Brown Bag Seminars.

"Our consistent monthly Brown Bag Seminars continue to provide a variety of valuable business educational opportunities for our regional community businesses," said Stephens. "Thank you to our regional businesses and Plymouth State University's talented faculty for providing the curriculum."

The Central New Hampshire Young Professionals group was also a highlight this past year, bringing back the Taste of Newfound event that allowed more than 400 people to taste the offerings of more than 36 restaurants, Inns and businesses.

"Through a lot of hard work by the Board members and Committee Chair Jen Hayes, this event exceeded everyone's expectations," said Stephens.

The Chamber also highlighted that in 2011, they received an All Star Award from Constant Contact for their weekly e-news letter, with marketing results ranking the Chamber amongst the top 10 percent of Constant Contact's customer base.

"You can keep track of all of our regional events and Chamber news in our weekly, e-news, bi-monthly news letter and Facebook," said Stephens.

Lastly, Stephens discussed the astounding growth that the Chamber has seen over the past few years, with 45 businesses joining the Chamber this year alone.

"As a Chamber, we now have a paid membership of 232 members, comparable to the 127 members a little over two years ago," said Stephens. "Our growth, retention and market penetration exceeds the industry average for chambers. This has been accomplished by providing and being recognized as the best value in the region. Our high quality of marketing, services and programs benefit not only you the business member, but the community, as well."

In closing, Stephens noted that the Chamber's success is truly a community effort.

"We are all the threads from throughout the regional area that are woven together into this fabric that makes up the communities we choose to live, work and play in," said Stephens. "We are choosing to work together, grow together and prosper together. As a team, we are seeking solutions and creating community connections."

The evening continued with a night of dancing and entertainment by the Uncle Steve Band, raffles and prizes.

If you would like to know more about the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce and keep up to date with all of their events, visit their Web site at www.plymouthng.org.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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