FARMINGTON — It appears the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce isn’t going down without a fight.

More than a month after it nearly closed because of a recent drastic decline in membership, chamber leaders say they’ve seen promising signs that the group is once again headed in the right direction.

Some new members have started to join recently, area businesses continue to sign up for upcoming chamber events and more longtime members are volunteering to help sustain the recent momentum, said Ivan Gould, chamber board president.

“Things are going well, but we’ve still got a lot of work left to do,” he said.

The chamber has been struggling to recover after losing 81 members earlier this year, which prompted an emergency meeting last month to consider dissolving the group and selling its assets.

At that meeting, however, many of the remaining 175 chamber members overwhelmingly voted to keep the group open despite having only enough cash to last another five months.

About 25 members then initiated several plans to save the chamber, with the effort leading to the recent turnaround. A membership drive, for instance, got about 15 new members to join and provide a small but vital boost in revenue, Gould said.

Another of the recent achievements was getting more business owners, both members and nonmembers alike, to sign up for the chamber’s upcoming home and leisure show, Gould said.

After a push by members to fill more booths this year, 52 businesses had signed up by the middle of last week to display at the show, which is Saturday at the Farmington Fairgrounds.

Businesses pay the chamber to set up booths to display their various wares, with 68 booths purchased last year that drew several thousand shoppers, Gould said. The annual event has been vital for the chamber’s fundraising and networking efforts for the past 17 years, he added.

Gould, who owns a Farmington construction company, called the drive to ensure there is a successful show this year a top priority. He added that it’s important to keep connecting customers with area businesses, regardless of the chamber’s fate.

Glenn Kapiloff, event chair, hoped to keep adding booths this week to highlight the chamber’s recovery while also helping support the region’s economy. He is a chamber board member and director of Foster Technology Center, the career training center for students in the region.

“It’s really important for us to show the viability of the chamber and how we can bring businesses together,” Kapiloff said. “These types of events and the networking we can do are what is going to help us pull out of this economic funk that we’ve all been in.”

The new group of chamber members volunteering their time has added to the ongoing efforts of the chamber board, which consists of 24 local business people who volunteer to serve after being appointed by the membership, Gould said.

Since last month, they’ve been working to plan new events and handling the chamber’s daily operations, taking over the duties of the vacant executive director position. That post, which is the chamber’s only full-time paid staff member, has been empty since the former leader Stacie Bourassa resigned to take a job with the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area.

Among some of the cost-cutting measures, chamber members are looking at reducing the executive director position to part-time hours, Gould said. He noted the group is also actively pursuing a smaller and less expensive office space, hoping to find another business to take over the chamber’s 30-month lease at its current location on Wilton Road in Farmington.

The recent progress, however, has bought the chamber some added time to work toward securing long-term stability, he said, adding the goal is to prevent similar problems from arising again.

“Right now we’re taking baby steps to work our way out of this financial struggle,” he said.

David F. Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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