After forty two years in the workforce and eight years in the Easley Chamber of Commerce, I have decided to retire from active employment effective June 29. The last eight years has been the most enjoyable of my career. Many of my old college friends comment that being a chamber of commerce president was the ideal job for my personality. I leave the chamber on a high note but I am very aware that the person coming behind me will move it
to a new and better level. I am totally supportive of my successor, the chamber, and of Easley and plan to remain active in the community.
There will be a long transition period plus I will be around to assist where I am needed. I do plan to pursue my “bucket list” items on my time frame. It has been my honor to serve as your president. I took the position seriously, but I did not take myself seriously. My goal has always been to promote business in the community which in turn would improve the quality of life for residents of Easley. I believe I have met my goal.
The Easley Chamber of Commerce has been blessed over the years with outstanding young people who have served for a semester as interns. They get college credit hours for their service and more important, they get valuable work experience that helps them as they go out to look for jobs after college. Southern Wesleyan University, Clemson University, and TriCounty Technology College participate in this program with us.
Henry Villafranco is a graduating senior majoring in marketing from Southern Wesleyan University and was captain of SWU soccer team and a Soccer All American second team. Henry’s project for the chamber was the total updating of the tourist map for Easley. These maps are given to relocators and tourist when they come into the chamber so they can see the major restaurants and business in Easley and Powdersville. It is important that it is up to date and Henry worked hard to get the businesses accurate and in the correct placement on the maps.
Cara Smith, a communications major from Clemson University will be starting in May as our summer intern. Cara is a 2010 EHS graduate and lives in Easley. Her project will be an Iphone App for the city of Easley and our chamber of commerce. She also will help with the day to day operations of the chamber and visitors center. Cara helped with the recent golf tournament and will be involved with the Big League Baseball World Series July 24 – August 1.
Annual Banquet Recap
For those of you who missed the 64th annual banquet, it was one of the best. Michael Cogdill was an excellent MC and inspirational keynote speaker. Go online to: http://www.easleychamber.net/newsletter/2012/02/2012-easley-chamber-gala-video/ to see the edited version of the banquet. Thanks to View Digital Media for providing this professional video of our banquet.
Joint Business after Hours
Seven chambers of commerce from Oconee and Pickens County will have a joint business after hours on April 26 at the Duke Energy Clemson Operations Center. This is the 50th Anniversary of Lake Hartwell and the Corps of Engineers Col. Hall will speak to us on the history and current status of the lake levels of Hartwell. I highly recommend attending this business after hours. No cost to chamber members. RSVP to the chamber.
Spring is in the air
I love this time of the year when flowers and trees bloom and temperatures are warm. At the time of this publication I will be on my twice yearly Appalachian Trail Hike. This time, I will hike four eight (48) miles in four days and actually cross into Virginia from the section in Tennessee. I am over 400 miles into the AT which is 2175 miles long. At this rate it may be the year 2030 when I complete. I need to pick up the pace!
Pickens County Career Center
Mark your calendar for March 15 at 11:45 – 1:00 PM for the 3rd Thursday luncheon. We will meet at the new Pickens County Career Center on Chastain Road off highway 123 past Liberty. I have invited our neighboring Pickens Chamber of Commerce and our Manufacturers Council to join us. Dr. Leonard Williams, director, and the students will have the program and will give us a tour of this state of the art school (formerly B.J. Skelton Career Center) that opened last fall. The culinary department will provide an excellent luncheon for us. You must RSVP to the Easley Chamber 859 2693 by March 14 noon – $15 for members and $18 for visitors.
Spots of Pride
The city of Easley announced at our state of the city address a new initiative to beautify Easley. “Spots of Pride” landscaped sections of highway medians and overpass embankments will be offered to be adopted by local businesses. This is a great initiative and gives businesses an opportunity to collaborate with the city to improve our community and add to our “Sense of Place”. The Chamber is committed to this and will facilitate where possible.
We are in the early stage of aiding the formation of a business incubator for entrepreneurs in our area. Working with SCORE (retired business mentors), Tri County Tech, Clemson Small Business Administration, and the city of Easley, we all see a need to locate new entrepreneurs in one area in Easley for the purpose of helping them start news businesses. This is a worthwhile project in 2012 of the chamber that we will help facilitate.
Come into our office at 2001 E. Main Street and meet Jean Riggins and Mary Kay. They are the tourism coordinators for the Easley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. I am proud of the way these ladies present our city and our county to visitors. In 2011 we had 152 families that came into our office to learn where the attractions are in our area. Some came to determine if they would like to live here and some did as a result of our hospitality and information. We sometimes show the 4.5 minute video we made of “Tour Pickens County”. This highlights the things to do and places to go nearby. websites www.easleychamber.org and www.tourpickenscounty.com generate 350 unique visits per day online. In 2011, through some of these inquiries, we mailed 55 packets of local information to visitors and potential relocators.
The Chamber and Visitors Center is the only direct visitor contact that Easley has. We need to make certain that this is funded appropriately as we are value added for Easley.
C. Dan Joyner
We lost a fine gentleman and a friend of mine in January. C. Dan Joyner was a friend to business, schools, his church, hospital, and the chamber of commerce. He was the head cheerleader while at Furman University. He carried that role throughout his life as a cheerleader for the upstate of South Carolina. We will miss Dan Joyner’s enthusiasm and leadership in our area.
New Year 2012
I am encouraged with the increase in business activity in our area. In the last six months, five (5) new manufacturing companies with the potential for 550 new jobs have announced expansion in Pickens County. This speaks well for Alliance Pickens County and our county council who are aggressive in bringing jobs to our area. I want commend our existing businesses for learning to operate lean and weathering the storm.
The Easley Town Center continues to expand the retail sector and new businesses will be announcing soon in that area.
Improves every year
The 64th annual Chamber awards banquet and gala will be held at the Tri County Technical College Easley Campus on February 18, 2012. The banquet committee is working hard to continuously improve an already special event that gets better each year. Michael Cogdill, anchor newscaster of WYFF will be the speaker at this event. We will present awards for business of the year, citizen of the year, ambassador of the year, and director of the year.
Sponsorships are now being taken. I invite your business to be a part of one of the best banquets for food, décor, entertainment and networking in the county. Call the chamber office 859-2693 to reserve your table and sponsorship.
2011 has been a better year with a slow recovery. Unemployment in the county is still high but the forecast is good. Efforts from Alliance Pickens County have caused five (5) new companies to relocate or expand in our area. They recognize our county as business friendly, having a great workforce, superior education system, strong career centers and Tri County Technical College. Your Easley Chamber of Commerce has increased membership by 3% to 440 members in 2011.
Membership retention is improving and we have recently made changes to have more contact with membership through increased director and ambassador participation. We had eight (8) business seminars this year to help small businesses. We created a “How to do Business in Easley” brochure for new startup businesses in the city. We are working with others on a business incubator for startups that will come together in 2012. Our website www.easleychamber.org continues to be strong averaging 350 visits/day which is an increase from 336 visits/day in 2010. Easley Chamber Facebook continues to grow with new fans weekly. Financially, your chamber met its annual budget with a slight surplus due to your membership investments and good cost control.
We wish for you a Merry Christmas
As we are in the Christmas season, remember this is the birthday of Jesus Christ. That is the reason for this wonderful time of the year. As you greet people, consider “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”. Keep your family, friends, and church in your mind at this time of the year. Best wishes and Merry Christmas from Fran, Mary, Jean, and Kent.
New Members recruited
We had an internally directed membership drive lead by Tiffany Martin that ended early October. Our ambassadors, directors, and Powdersville Business Council members made many contacts and as a result of their efforts we added 18 new members. Thanks especially to Terrie Albright, Don Crews, Pam Bridges, Ryan Kouvolo, Janice Perry, and Pam Jeter for their recruitment of members. The week after the drive we had well attended new member orientation at DunBurks Premier Events.
I am pleased with the results of the membership vote for five new directors who will serve for the next three years on our 15 member board. They will be replacing Tripp Martin, Emily DeRoberts, Tiffany Martin, Scott Buckhiester, Janelle Beamer and Alex Dye who are rotating off the board at the end of December 2011. We will miss these directors’ service and leadership.
I look forward to this time of the year when it gets cooler, the leaves change, and I go out and hike. I especially look forward to Thanksgiving time with my family. Unfortunately Thanksgiving is becoming a neglected holiday as we prepare for Christmas.
We have so much to be thankful. We have our freedom, opportunity to succeed, friendships and family. We also live in one of the best locations in America — the upcountry of South Carolina. Let us be thankful for what God has given us.
Easley Fine Arts Center
In September we conducted the ribbon cutting to open the Fine Arts Center of Easley located in the ground floor of the West End Hall. Amanda Gunter and her staff have converted the first floor to a real showcase to teach music – voice, piano, guitar, and other instrument. They will also offer classes on art, dance, and theatre. In my opinion, one of the most needed courses will be etiquette for youth. Go online to www.fineartscenterofeasley.com or call Amanda at 422-6027 to see full schedule of their fine arts classes.
Both the Easley Recreation Department and the Red Owens Sports Complex offer outstanding programs and have contributed to make us family friendly. The addition of the Fine Arts Center adds another dimension to Easley that will improve our image as being a family friendly community.
Chamber Members helping chamber members
Nicole Lewis Salon gave a “makeover” to eight (8) young girls ages 6 to 12 from Miracle Hill. After the hair cut and finger nail makeover the girls were treated to pizza from Michael’s Pizzeria and cake from Publix. Then they went to ABC123 for new apparel for each girl. It was a special day for these girls thanks primarily to Ann, Gina, Sarah, Dianne, Barbara, Shawna of Nicole Lewis Salon on1951 E. Main St.
This demonstrates the best of chamber members who go out of their way to help the community and other chamber members.
Fall is in the air
The Chamber luncheons have started back for the fall season. Congressman Jeff Duncan kicked us off with a great attendance lunch at Tri County Tech – Easley on August 25. Clemson football star and Pittsburg Steelers/Super Bowl participant Benny Cunningham will speak to the Easley Chamber September 15 at DunBurks Premier Events. Chris Ferguson, principal of the new Powdersville High School will speak September 22 to the Powdersville Business Council.
If you are not attending our member luncheons in Easley and in Powdersville you are missing great speakers, great food by Catering etc., and great networking opportunities. As always, you need to RSVP to 859-2693 or email@example.com to let us know you will be at the luncheons.
September 27-29 will be three days of recruitment for new chamber of commerce members. Our Board of Directors, Ambassadors, and Powdersville Business Council will be contacting businesses to tell them the benefits of membership. If you know of a business that can use the networking and referral opportunities we provide, now is the time to join.
Some board members will be rotating off in January 2012 and five (5) will be elected for three year terms to replace them. Past Chairman Alex Dye lead the nominating committee to select eight (8) nominations to go on the ballot for the membership to elect new five (5) chamber directors. Be on the lookout for your ballot to arrive in the mail to make your election.