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Changes coming at Chamber of Commerce

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By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post

LEBANON -- Some changes are in the works this year for the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, changes that will enhance the organization and its efforts in the business community.

That was the word Tuesday from John Lancaster, new chairman of the Chamber for 2009, during an interview.

"We have a couple of things we’re going to work on," he said, listing the hiring of a Membership Director and overhauling the Chamber’s website.

The Chamber has never had a Membership Director, he said, and added that the person hired would serve as a liaison with the existing members while working to enhance the group’s visibility and increase membership. The Chamber presently has 821 members.The Chamber has never had a Membership Director, he said, and added that the person hired would serve as a liaison with the existing members while working to enhance the group’s visibility and increase membership. The Chamber presently has 821 members.

Lancaster noted the Chamber’s board is still researching the position and looking at Chambers of Commerce in other communities to learn what they have done when hiring membership directors.

Another project the Lebanon Chamber will undertake this year is redoing its website.

"It’s fine," Lancaster said, but added "it doesn’t have some of the flash available nowadays."

Many company officials first turn to the Internet and Chamber websites when seeking information about communities they might be interested in relocating/expanding to at some point, he said.

There are many ways to upgrade the existing website to make it more inviting to business people and to vacationers who sometimes look to the Chamber for information.

Lancaster said the Chamber will work to create a website that is improved and can be accessed easily.

"Committees are in full swing," he said, noting the Education Division, Sports Council and Tourism are planning a busy year as are the other committees.

The Tourism panel is working on plans for a special event this year, a "signature event," he said, that will bring additional focus to Lebanon and Wilson County. It will be called "Dumplin’ Day," and as plans come together more information will be released about the event.

In addition, Lancaster said, the Chamber will work to promote shopping in Wilson County.

"It’s more important than ever," he said, adding that with the opening of Providence MarketPlace in Mt. Juliet and other stores in Lebanon and Watertown "I don’t know of anything you can’t buy in Wilson County."

It is important to shop here because what you pay in sales taxes goes to support schools, roads and more, he added.

The Chamber is also celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. Lancaster said Chamber officials reviewed the minutes from board meetings from these past 85 years, all of which are on file at the Chamber office, and included some of the highlights in the program at the annual awards banquet held this past Thursday.

Among the highlights Lancaster said they discovered was that the Chamber signed a five-year lease for its office space in the 1960s for $25 a month. And in 1969, Chamber members discussed a civic center/arena facility to accommodate large meetings and banquets. The mid-2000s found city and county leaders and Chamber officials having that same discussion regarding the construction of a facility large enough to hold conventions and others gatherings by groups interested in coming to Lebanon.

"That was sort of comical," he said.

They also learned that some items that now fall under the government’s responsibility were handled years ago by the Chamber. Those items include street lights and sanitation. There were two or three districts in the county in the past where some discussed separating from Wilson and becoming part of Davidson County, he said, and there some discussion among Chamber officials concerning bootlegging.

And Lancaster noted, Chamber officials mentioned flooding on the Square on several occasions.

Chamber members celebrated the organization’s 85th birthday at the banquet with a cake and by singing "Happy Birthday."

Lancaster added that serving as chairman of the Chamber this year is very special to him because his father, Jim Lancaster, served as chairman. Mr. Lancaster is retired from the Farm Bureau Insurance. He has resided in Lebanon since 1952.

"Exactly 50 years ago, my Dad was the chairman," he said, and explained that he learned that his father served in that position in 1959.

"It was not planned," he said, but he did have the chance to share the moment with his father at last week’s banquet.

"I had an opportunity to thank him for the example he set for me. That was special was for me."

Lancaster serves this year with Becky Jennings, past chair; Danny Stewart, chair-elect (not the chairman this year, as was incorrectly reported in this past Friday’s edition of The Wilson Post); Brenda Burkett, treasurer; Beth Ashe, vice chair, Government Relations; Mary Beard, vice chair, Education; Connie Bullington, vice chair, Community Tourism; Dr. Harvill Eaton, vice chair, Economic Development; Dusty Davis, vice chair, Membership; Paul Jewell, vice chair, Sports Council; Corie Simpson, coordinator of Ambassadors. Other directors include Bruce Hallums, Vince Cherry, Veronica Bender, Magi Tilton, Cathy Sweeney, Robin Vance, Kenny Martin and Tammy Flanagan.

Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at news@wilsonpost.com.

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