Consultant recommends changes for Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce

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A consultant has recommended several changes aimed at improving the marketing and industrial recruitment efforts of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce.

Jay Garner, a site-selection consultant from Atlanta, said the chamber should form a new advisory board for economic development and focus on four industries: military contracting; financial services, such as payroll and insurance; electrical manufacturing; and specialized chemical and plastics manufacturing.

Doug Peters, CEO of the chamber, said the chamber will begin forming working groups for each of the target industries identified by Garner. The chamber's board of directors voted Wednesday to accept an economic development strategy.

The report outlines what would be some of the biggest changes for the organization since its predecessor, the Cumberland County Business Council, formed in 2003 with the merger of three related agencies.

The chamber adopted its current moniker in 2008 to better promote its identity.

Garner's other recommendations include:

Conducting an image survey and identifying a new brand or marketing slogan for the chamber.

Overhauling the chamber's website.

Raising more private and public funding for economic development.

Starting a small-business incubator for new entrepreneurs.

Helping develop a 250-plus-acre industrial "shovel-ready" site.

The chamber is a private organization with about 1,000 dues-paying members. The chamber receives a combined $815,000 annually from the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the city-owned Public Works Commission for economic development and industrial recruitment. An additional $300,000 in private money goes toward economic development each year.

The chamber has traditional functions, such as business advocacy, job fairs, coffee clubs and a small business health insurance program.

The 144-page Garner report cost the chamber $80,000, Peters said.

In an interview Wednesday, Garner said the chamber needs to develop and promote businesses, not focus on "land-use planning and redevelopment" efforts." He was referring to the Fayetteville City Council giving the chamber the tasks of helping to develop a Hope VI business park off Gillespie Street and find potential sellers of property along Murchison Road for the city's redevelopment plan.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Arp, who was on a chamber steering committee for the Garner report, said the chamber's current model for economic development could be more effective if its scope is more focused as Garner suggests.

Cumberland County Commissioner Marshall Faircloth, another steering committee member, agreed.

"The chamber was looking to and received, I believe, a good road map for improvement," he said.

Source: http://fayobserver.com/articles/2012/05/10/1176171?sac=fo.local