PARKERSBURG - The past year has been a positive one for the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, as more than 200 local business leaders and representatives gathered Tuesday night for the final Business After Hours meetings of the year.
Chamber President and CEO Jill Parsons, who just marked her second year in the chamber's top leadership position, said events like Tuesday's after-hours meeting are an important tool for local businesses of all types and sizes.
"For our members, a lot of people use the Business After Hours as a networking opportunity. It's a chance to bring your business cards and meet other chamber members because you never know when you might have a need for their product or service," she said.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Vernadette Harris, left, and Tammy Reynolds, with Comfort Suites in Mineral Wells, enjoy refreshments at Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley’s Business After Hours at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
"It's really about being out there, making those connections, being seen and knowing what resources are available in our community," Parsons said.
Sandy Harris, a sales representative for NOE Office Equipment in Parkersburg, was among the business representatives attending Tuesday's event.
Harris said NOE is a longtime member of the chamber, which he believes is a positive influence in the community.
"A lot of people in today's society want to do business with other members, or in groups with them," he said.
Meetings like the Business After Hours, lunches and similar activities allow local business people to meet, talk and learn about each other in a more casual atmosphere and that can be a positive factor, he said.
The past year has a been a good one for the chamber in the Mid-Ohio Valley, Parsons said. Forty members joined the chamber in 2012, mostly new businesses but also including a number of existing businesses, which saw the benefits of membership and decided to become involved, she said.
Special events and activities started the previous year continued to grow and allow the organization to build on those successes, including the annual chili cookoff at Point Park, the chamber's annual awards dinner and the Spring Business Expo.
The chamber's ongoing programs also remained popular, including Lunch and Learn sessions and the Business After Hours gatherings, both of which are already booked through next May.
One new program this year was a Women in Leadership Luncheon, which drew a lot of interest and success.
"It was for women executives, a day to really kind of network with other female leaders and executives in the Mid-Ohio Valley," she said.
The chamber's members started a "Lunch Mob" program when members and the general community were encouraged to all eat lunch together at the same time on the same day at a member restaurant. The program was successful and the chamber plans to continue it in the coming year.
Parsons is interested in expanding the concept into a "Cash Mob" for small businesses in the local area.
Looking ahead at 2013, Parsons said the focus for now will remain on those existing programs and activities and working to continue to build and improve them.
"From our perspective, we're always looking at what do our members need," she said.
The chamber encourages input from its members and the community about what they think is needed in the local area, she added.