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Posted December 3, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Collins to lead regional chamber

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New Top of Virginia Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Collins sits in front of James Davis, interim director, at a press conference Tuesday. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- The Top of Virginia Regional Chamber's new executive says he wants to help businesses large and small through the tough economic times.

But entrepreneurs also shouldn't fear coming to the Chamber of Commerce, the group's president and chief executive officer, Warren Randall "Randy" Collins, said Tuesday.

As to how he would lead the chamber to help businesses during the economic downturn, Collins said he also has felt their pain; he recently lost his job with McLean Insurance.

"So I have been there. I know what people are dealing with," Collins said. "Specifically, I think it depends on the business, I mean, we wanna reach out for those people, first of all, to be their advocate and their friend."

"We're not here to provide some things that the finance and other people in the community can provide, but I think, nine times out of 10, these business owners just wanna know that somebody cares whether that business survives," Collins said.

The regional chamber, covering Clarke and Frederick counties and Winchester, introduced Collins at a press conference held at the Old Town Winchester Events Center on South Loudoun Street.

"The chamber has turned a page in its history book," Collins said. "Change is good; the country is going through a lot of change right now and this chamber is changing, moving and we're moving forward. We are ready to deliver what we want to be the pre-eminent business association in the northern part of the valley."

Collins, 48, assumed the job Monday, filling the position left when Charles "Charlie" Weiss left in September to take a job leading a start-up chamber in Houston. Former Shenandoah University President James "Jim" Davis held the position as interim CEO and president while the regional chamber's search committee looked for a permanent successor for Weiss.

The regional chamber's board of directors set up a search committee, which sifted through nearly 50 applicants, according to Richard Bell, president of The Adams Companies and chairman of the regional chamber.

Collins has experience heading other chambers of commerce. He started selling memberships on commission for the Fairfax County chamber in Tyson's Corner in 1988 and 1989; served as membership director for the Greater Lynchburg Chamber from 1989 to 1992; and was executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber from 1992 to 1995.

Collins worked as president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce from 1995 to 2006.

"This is very close to home for him so he's aware of our regional issues," Bell said. "He's very aware of issues inherent in any chamber of commerce organization, so we are very fortunate, very happy to have Randy with us."

As to why he left the Loudoun County job, Collins recalled that chamber's board of directors pressured him to deal more with big businesses rather than small ones even though he knew 80 percent of the members had 10 employees or less, and 75 percent were home-based. He said Loudoun had much success with small- and home-based businesses.

"The power of the business community is in the entrepreneurs, the small-business people," Collins said.

The chamber leader recalled hearing about one business owner's struggle during the economic slowdown.

"I went down to have lunch on Loudoun Street, a non-member ... but it's a restaurant guy and he's having a tough time," he said. "I just told him that the chamber wants to be here for the small business community."

* Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com

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