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Woodstock chamber taking first step to county body

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

After years of discussion, Shenandoah County businesses are moving closer to forming a countywide chamber of commerce.

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce voted Tuesday to change its name to the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce. In an interview on Wednesday, Jenna French, executive director of the town body, said the vote for the transition, which will be complete by March, was unanimous.

"We've actually been talking with the other chambers for almost a year now," French said. "The Strasburg chamber had initiated conversations last year about us all possibly merging."

And, while Strasburg and New Market intend to participate in the countywide effort, they plan to maintain their local chambers, she said. French said it appeared Edinburg and Mt. Jackson would dissolve their own chambers.

A chamber advisory group made up of representatives from each chamber had been meeting monthly with Natalie Wills, Shenandoah County tourism and marketing director, and Jim Watson, Bryce Resort sales director, French said.

She said the effort had been pushed by former county tourism and economic development director Susie Hill.

"We just think that there's great benefits to our members," French said.

Feedback from Woodstock Chamber members through surveys showed there was a great deal of support for the all-county effort, French said. She said 25 percent of the chamber's members are from out of town.

Wills said Wednesday the county hasn't been involved in forming the new entity.

"Since they're kind of membership-driven and we're tax-based driven, it's a little different," she said. "We will work with them in any way we can."

Justin Wightman, who is on the board of directors of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks it's a good move.

"For starters, Edinburg -- as a lot of towns are -- is kind of struggling with the businesses staying open," he said.

In recent years, the number of active chamber participants has been "taking a steady decline." But, a county chamber could have more than 400 members, Wightman said.

"It could be a very strong organization, and provide a lot of value to members of the organization," he said.

The idea has been tossed around for years, WIghtman said.

"Forty years ago, business was done within town limits more than it is now," he said. "I think it's an exciting prospect. I think it's going to benefit everybody involved. Some of the concerns that were voiced [were] that some of the towns would be lost in the mix...I don't have any fear of that at all."

For more information about the chamber, go to woodstockvachamber.com, or call 459-2542.


Wonderful idea; little late but nevertheless, will be a boon for tourism... Pittsylvania County has one (where I now reside) has both a city(Danville) and county chamber, and it has been rewarding.. Regggie Arno Danville VA...

Remember when you moved into a new community and the American Chamber of Commerce (ACC) knocked on your door, welcoming you to the community with an informational package of local businesses available to you to include local numbers, i.e., fire, police, hospitals, etc. I am dating myself, aren't I? In the last election, the ACC spent $50 million; so far for this election cycle they have spent $3.4 million with the CEO's promise that they will exceed the $50 million spent in the previous election.

"Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the powerful business lobby, on Tuesday said the Chamber planned to get involved in 11 or 12 Senate races and 35 to 37 races for the House of Representatives. 'We are planning on having a good year,' Donohue told hundreds of members of the U.S. small business community at a meeting in Washington.....In 2010, when Republicans took control of the House, the Chamber reported spending $32 million on races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics data....(The ACC historically stays away from the presidential race but hits hard on congressional elections as well as state attorneys general and elected judges races.) The group, whose donors are kept secret....,(Reuters May 22, 2012)

Small business community? What? Where? Remember our little Ben Franklin store in Woodstock that went out of business after 75 years and acknowledged publicly that their closing was due in part to Walmart?

"Wal-Mart*, the giant retailer now under fire over allegations of foreign bribery in Mexico, has participated in an aggressive and high-priced lobbying campaign to amend the long-standing U.S. anti-bribery law that the company might have violated. The push to revisit how federal authorities enforce the statute has been centered at a little-known but well-funded arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where a top executive of Wal-Mart has sat on the board of directors for nearly a decade." (WP/Bloomberg)

* And the winners are...
Wal-Mart rules the Fortune 500 for the second year in a row -- beating Exxon Mobil decisively.

Thanks, Jane, for the information. Isn't it ironic that the local chambers of commerce in this country are working to promote the small local businesses most of us care about in our towns but the National Chamber, the American Chamber of Commerce, is nothing more than a lobbyist for Big Business and do all they can to influence our elections. They might share the name----chamber of commerce----but while the local chambers are there for the small guy in the local business community, the American Chamber of Commerce is all for the Big Businesses which in many cases force the closing of the small local "mom and pop businesses" in the towns.

I realize that many local chapters throughout the U.S. have disaffiliated from the U.S. Chamber but curious if our 'local' chapters are still members. My guess would be 'yes'.

You can see for yourself who is part of the US Chamber of Commerce: http://www.uschamber.com/chambers/directory?state=va

The only "local" chamber I see on there is Harrisonburg-Rockingham. Hopefully the new "Countywide chamber" WON'T join!

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