AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce celebrated the official opening of its new headquarters on Western Avenue with a ribbon cutting and open house Monday.

The chamber purchased the property located at 269 Western Ave. over the summer and began moving into the space Dec. 14. The two-story structure had been vacant for the last six years, according to chamber president and CEO Ross Cunningham.

“This is an excellent location, and this gets them exposure on the avenue,” said Augusta Mayor David Rollins. “It is a very active chamber, and I think it’s a great move.”

Cunningham said moving to Western Avenue from its old home on University Drive near the Augusta Civic Center will give the organization increased visibility and allow it to serve people looking for information on local businesses.

“It is a big step for us, because while we work hard for our members, people don’t always know we exist,” he said. “Having a presence right on Western Avenue with all the increased traffic will enable us to get the word out more on local businesses.”

One of the other draws of the new location is the upstairs conference room. The chamber used to hold its meetings off site, but now the group can host board meetings and other community events.

“Our old space was very limited, but now we have a space with unbelievable visibility, and we’ll be able to have our board meetings right here in our own building,” said board chairman Eric Jermyn. “The move into this building coincides with a number of changes with the chamber, and they are all positive.”

Jermyn said the old space couldn’t be used as a visitor center because it “wasn’t a showpiece.” But the chamber plans on installing signs, which Jermyn hopes will be digital, in the coming months to advertise events and promote local businesses.

The chamber had discussed using the space as a more ambitious welcome center, but Cunningham isn’t sure if it is a viable option.

“We’re still trying to figure out if that’s something we want to advertise,” he said. “The concern is if you have somebody with an RV coming off the turnpike and trying to get into our (parking) lot, what good are we really doing them?”

During the event guests including representatives of Maine’s elected officials and members of the community toured the new space and ate pizza from the chamber’s neighbor, Pizza Degree, which opened next door Dec. 3.

Owner Spenser Ouellette, of Sidney, said the location will be a win-win for both his restaurant and the chamber.

The chamber staff agreed that the old facility served the organization well, but a new, modern space was needed.

“The old place was very good to use for many, many years, but having a new building presents the image we want for the chamber,” Cunningham said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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