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Looking Forward – By Ellyn Gibbs
It was a tingly subzero morning, the second dawn of a brand new year. Frank Cocchiarella, executive director of the NH Chamber of Commerce and I sat with coffee in hand, ready to tackle our agenda: record reflections and make some amazing resolutions. I sipped my hot drink, waiting for my pre-caffeine haze to drift away before I jumped into business. Cocchiarella didn’t have to worry about that; he’s perpetually energized, especially when he’s talking about Central New Hampshire and its exciting successes.
2017 was a pivotal year for the Chamber of Commerce. They sharpened their mission statement, began the rebranding process, and hosted some wonderful events. Most importantly, Cocchiarella said, “The communities are starting to see we are active and visible. We are striving toward unity while still celebrating the unique aspects of each one of our five regions!”
Here are some highlights from the last year at Central NH Chamber of Commerce.
“When I was asked to assist the Chamber as its director, I first asked myself: ‘Are Chambers dinosaurs?’” Cocchiarella said. “But after I started work, I had people asking questions from the Chamber every day. It made me realize there are more than 300 reasons for us to exist and serve the community.” Because of this high public demand, the Chamber decided to refine their mission statement, keeping both purpose and mission basic to better fit the community’s needs.
Updated Mission: Central NH Chamber of Commerce is the channel for business and community connections, fueling the economic engine of central New Hampshire.
“We started the year with some new interns that were young, professional and vibrant. Our goal was to be more active, more visible, and more alive, and our interns really helped us achieve that,” Cocchiarella reported.
He hopes to recruit some new interns throughout the year, spacing their programs so that the Chamber has extra help through the summer and fall as well as the normal school semester.
Business After Hours (BAH)
The Business After Hours events (BAH) are networking events that Chamber members host at their businesses after they close to customers. In 2017, the Chamber hosted over 14 BAH events, which were well attended and very enjoyable, providing great connections for the business owners in the area. “We saw old and new faces at every single one,” Cocchiarella said.
In 2018, he says the Chamber will try to limit numbers to one BAH event per month, while mixing up locations and fields to cover areas like Newfound, Baker Valley, and Waterville Valley. Their first event is already scheduled for January 23rd at the Enterprise Center in Plymouth, from 4:30-6 pm.
In 2017, the Chamber worked hard on their logo and web design. Now that they have a recognizable logo and an aesthetic presence online, they’re hoping to enhance the nuts and bolts of the website. “We apologize that [the website] hasn’t been actively updated. One of our goals for early 2018 is to make this more user-friendly and an active information source,” Cocchiarella said.
“I am super enthused about our overall team,” said Cocchiarella. “We have a great blend of experience and new energy, so really, the sky’s the limit when we all work together!” The Chamber has also made a connection with Dannielle Sargent from Current Graphics. Sargent is working diligently to optimize the Chamber’s online presence and polish up their marketing and branding promotion.
Last year’s “Jump Aboard” event was a huge success, and it was a good reunion for those who have been involved with the Chamber in the past, as well as new blooms – business owners who have just recently entered the area.
“We are planning a similar kickoff in March or April of 2018,” said Cocchiarella. Watch the Chamber’s e-newsletters and website for more information.
The sun had climbed a bit, casting brilliant rectangles through the coffee shop windows. Cocchiarella took a last sip of coffee. “We saw a 22% increase in membership this past year,” he said. “We need to continue to grow in 2018, but not just in membership. Community support is huge and Central NH is such a rich area for business and recreation. We want to do our utmost to share it with others and help them experience our home state’s beauty.”
He wants to encourage everyone to watch their e-newsletters for more updates and fun networking events. He is also looking for feature stories about members, so if you’d like to be featured on the Chamber website and the e-newsletter, drop him a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.