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Williamstown Chamber Seeks Input on Future Role

Tammy Daniels

There was a good turnout at the Williamstown Chamber's annual meeting, held at Gramercy Bistro in North Adams. Chamber members got some preliminary results from a survey about the chamber's future initiatives and spent the evening networking and trying Gramercy's spicy hors d'oeuvres.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Chamber should take a leadership role in creating a sustainable Williamstown that includes promoting the creation of private-sector jobs and economic development, and offering cooperative marketing opportunities.

It also should have a greater voice in defining the future of Williamstown — and wait until it has more information on the pros and cons of a proposed biomass plant before taking a stand.

That's the result so far of a survey sent to 300 members on Nov. 10; only a sixth have yet responded to the online survey.

The six statements on the survey are designed to gauge members' interest in the chamber taking a more active role beyond marketing, networking, local promotions and organizing popular events like the upcoming Holiday Walk. The results will be used to help inform the chamber's strategy over the next five years.

Between 80 and 90 percent of those who responded so far strongly and somewhat agreed that the chamber should "lead in economic development" to attract new business, especially outside the tourist/hospitality area, and (three-quarters strongly agreed) offer more cooperative ventures to market to residents as well as tourists. Just over half strongly agreed members with pro-business mindsets should serve on local boards. The

Members bid farewell to board member Aimee Hirz, left, who's leaving the area, and bemoaned the ending terms of co-Presidents Bonnie Clark and Mary Morrow.

However, while the percentages were high, the total respondents was still low. "We need the input," said Allen Jezouit, a member of the chamber's board, at Tuesday night's annual meeting and mixer hosted by Gramercy Bistro on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts campus.

Co-Presidents Bonnie Clark of Northern Berkshire Healthcare and Mary Morrow of Williamstown Savings Bank will be completing their terms (a announcement that evoked a long awwwww from the more than 40 attendees) and new officers will be introduced at the January meeting.

"Mary and I are on our way out the door. It's been great and if we can say anything to any of you, stay involved," said Clark. "You don't have to do a lot if everybody does a little bit ... it's easier.

Clark, who becomes chairman of the Membership Committee, said there's plenty of room for participation on the chamber's committees. "It's the involvement in the community that counts. You can sit back and complain all you want but ... if you're not part of the solution ... ."

Members also said goodbye to board member and current Secretary Aimee Hirz of the Williams College Museum of Art, who is moving to the Albany, N.Y., area.

Coming up, the chamber will be expanding activities for the annual Holiday Walk to include an "elf" hunt amongst Water Street businesses and an "Ugly Art Swap" at the Harrison Gallery, and is thinking up more activities.

Members also applauded news that they'd raised $3,200 for local nonprofits from this year's networking events.

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