New Chamber president calls for new course

Published 10:12 am Saturday, March 24, 2012

FRANKLIN—New Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce President Michael Clark implored business leaders Thursday night to “welcome new people, new ideas and new approaches” to strengthen the community’s growth and prosperity.

“Part of that bold course of action is dependent upon us in the business community speaking out and demanding more accountability from our leadership,” Clark said during the Chamber’s annual meeting at Cypress Cove Country Club.

Clark told the group it’s time for the business community to help ensure improvement in public schools “to improve graduation rates and provide a quality workforce for our community.”

He added that a focus on improvement of “all facets of economic

development, an improvement “with a more retail business-friendly climate in Franklin, an “ability to attract new residents” to help rebuild the middle class and a focus on shared services would all be part of a new course.

“It is also crucial for us in the business community to lobby for improved dialogue between Franklin and Southampton County,” Clark said. “To foster better cooperation among the two localities and for once, earnestly explore areas for consolidated services.”

Blake Blythe, owner of Blake Ford and a Chamber board member, agrees.

“The Chamber has been stuck in the mud and we have new people coming on board that will shake things up,” Blythe said. “I see new beginnings in front of us and some positive things in front of us.”

“I thought he was a real proponent for good things to come,” said Gaynelle Riddick, owner of Royal Tours. “I just wanted to stand up and cheer when he finished.”

Clark called 2012 “the year of the member” at the Chamber, and one objective will be more of an emphasis on membership attraction and retention.

“Also this year you can look for increased face-to-face visits from Chamber staff and board members,” he said.

Clark replaces Kevin Sutton, who was given a Chamber jacket and a matchbox car as tokens of appreciation.

Mitch Sandlin and Mid-Atlantic Dairy Queen were honored as Business of the Year, and new and retiring board members were recognized.

“I thought it was a fantastic meeting,” said Executive Director Teresa Beale. “It just had a good vibe the whole night.”