The Economic Black Cloud Has a Silver Lining in TC

By Sandra Zunino

Leading Talbot County businesses through the current economic climate presents inherent challenges. Alan Silverstein IOM, acting President and CEO of the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce (TCCC) is not only rising to the occasion, he is setting a new standard of excellence.

The Maryland Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) at the June Talbot County Chamber membership luncheon awarded Mr. Silverstein as the 2008 Chamber Executive of the Year. MACCE President Linda Friday presented the award.

“To me, it’s an honor when your peers recognize you,” says Mr. Silverstein. “That is the highest form of recognition in the profession.”

Al has been involved in chambers for 27 years, bringing experience from South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, and has held the position of President of the Talbot County Chamber for almost a decade. He is a graduate of the Institute of Organizational Management (IOM), a post-graduate program dedicated to providing expertise in managing and improving organizational performance to businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit organizations.

Mr. Silverstein held the position of MACCE president in the past and knows the tough criteria for the distinction. Usually six to 10 individuals are nominated and must demonstrate their accomplishments.

“It takes time for your chairperson, who places the nomination, to make sure they have the information they need to fill out the form completely,” he says.

The MACCE recognized Mr. Silverstein for contributions he made to make the Talbot County Chamber a stronger organization including helping workers impacted by the closing of the Easton Black & Decker plant including creating a resource room at the Chamber and providing staff to assist displaced workers develop resume’s and job leads.

Mr. Silverstein is also a strong proponent of developing networking groups including the Talbot County Young Professionals and Business After Hours. Networking groups meet weekly or bi-weekly and provide businesspeople the opportunity to make important connections and market their services. As the dim economy has many businesses and non-profit organizations tightening their belts, these networking groups have seen record numbers in attendance.

New informational seminars conducted at the chamber and free to members are also part of Mr. Silverstein’s plan to support area businesses. Topics include E-marketing, how to set up QuickBooks and others that can help entrepreneurs make the most of recent technologies and new practices. “We continue to look at how we can add value to our chamber membership,” he says.

Part of adding value to the membership is dispensing critical information in the weekly “Chamber Compass” newsletter, which goes out to all the members and provides data about upcoming legislation that will impact the business community. “What were really trying to do is disseminate as much information as possible to our members so they can make a decision as to how it will affect their organization, and can in turn contact their representatives and make them aware of how they feel about pending legislation,” he says.

Through a grant provided by Verizon, the Talbot County Chamber has expanded their facilities to include private conference rooms with video conferencing capabilities so area businesses, non-profit organizations and home-based entrepreneurs can conduct important meetings with access to the latest technology. This is yet another way to support the membership.

With 185 members, the Talbot County Chamber is one of the larger chambers on the Eastern Shore. While chambers of commerce are non-profit organizations, they are independent of each other. “Al is a visionary leader with an outstanding track record of success with the Talbot County Chamber,” stated Ms. Friday who is also the President of the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce.