By Avra Sullivan
“Being a member of the Chamber of Commerce means being a member of the community,” says Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce president Linda Friday. Now in her 10th year as president, Mrs. Friday explains how the Chamber is such an integral part of life in Queen Anne’s County. The Chamber acts primarily as a resource for businesses of any size or tenure.
Linda explains that, while they are not financially supported or a part of the government, they have a strong relationship with local and state officials. County commissioners often approach the chamber to get ideas and opinions on issues that will affect the local community. In turn, chamber members have gone to Annapolis to speak on behalf of residents on topics such as the new emergency room facility.
The Chamber can assist business owners with issues related to permits, licensing, expansion and even provide help for businesses who may be struggling. The Chamber also is a networking epicenter. They hold a members event every month, either an after-hours mixer, a breakfast, or a themed event such as their Harvest Breakfast in November in which all of the food is provided by local farmers.
In April they hold a legislative wrap up where they invite local legislators to give an overview of what transpired during the General Assembly. The Chamber also holds several events geared towards connecting local businesses with the community they serve. The annual golf tournament is now in its 25th year. Linda says thanks to the dedicated members who help to produce this event, it has always been a great success.
This October the Chamber will host the 2012 Business and Home Expo. This is a full day of celebrating businesses in Queen Anne’s County beginning with the Excellence in Business Awards and reception followed by the expo complete with food and wine catered by area restaurants. The expo is free to the public and tickets are available for the awards ceremony and banquet.
The Chamber also believes in giving back to the community and investing in future business leaders. Their VISION program gives young entrepreneurs a chance to network, learn, and grow their business. The group is focused on ages 18-40, but Linda says any age is welcome. This group recently became involved with the Adopt-A-Bear program, and last year adopted over 1,100 children in the Queen Anne’s County area. The group currently is collecting school supplies for a local elementary school, and last year was able to pack a large van with supplies for area school children.
Membership in the Chamber is open to any business, and the benefits are numerous. Large and chain businesses can join, and Linda encourages this as a way to connect and be a part of the community. “We can be as good as you want us to be,” says Linda. From referrals, e-blasts, member-to-member discounts and exposure at local events such as the Queen Anne’s County Fair, the chamber is an excellent way to get your business in front of potential customers. “Just to know we lend a hand to help a business and to be a support system for them is very rewarding,” says Linda.
The Chamber of Commerce is a bank of resources and help to businesses, but they cannot do it alone. Technically staffed by only two individuals, Linda and Financial Administrator Susan Sweitzer, she says they are looking for volunteers. Any help is appreciated, be it one hour or 10 hours. For more information on volunteer opportunities, upcoming events or joining the chamber, visit the Chamber website at www.qacchamber.com or call 410-643-8530.