MOUNT GILEAD — Joel Smythe took over as Executive Director of the Morrow County Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.
“I’m looking forward to this role and working together,” said Smythe, a small business owner and graphic designer.
He said he enjoys the rural lifestyle, lives in Johnsville and attends church at North Woodbury Alliance Church.
Smythe also admitted he’s got big shoes to fill.
Chris Conant, President of the Chamber’s board of directors, praised the work done by Shelley Planey who left her position leading the chamber after three years to work in the financial field.
“Shelley did a heck of a job with outreach to the community, the businesses and starting to bring them back into the chamber,” Conant said. “Her personality really allowed her to make people feel comfortable coming in.”
Keeping the organization a true county chamber is important, Smythe said.
“I live out here in Johnsville and I see little businesses that I pass up and down (State Route) 314. I have that perspective, so I’m asking are they members?”
Conant, who has been on the chamber board for four years, agrees.
“Bringing the outermost businesses in. We are not the Mount Gilead Chamber. We are definitely the Morrow County Chamber. So we have moved around our luncheons — Heartland Retreat Center, Lutheran Memorial Camp, Heritage Barns, LSI — so people there can see us and be a part of it,” he said.
Smythe says his networking background is helpful connecting businesses with one another.
“You do business with those you know, like and trust,” he said.
Conant said one goal this year is to take one day a week where he and Smythe visit local business owners.
“We want to go out and hit five or so businesses, including non-chamber members. Make that face-to-face contact at a very macro level and make those connections.”
Networking has had to overcome a major hurdle in recent weeks with the coronavirus and the state limiting gatherings. As a result, the planned business after hours event at a local school was canceled and a bowling event set for April will be postponed to a later date.
“It’s going to be a challenge. We are learning on the fly,” Conant said.
He’s also encouraged by what he’s witnessed.
“I’ve seen a tremendous response from chamber and other community members, coming together and reaching out to these restaurants saying let’s make sure we are ordering food and supporting local businesses any way we can. I love seeing that.”
Conant said the chamber will continue to be a resource and recently sent a survey to members.
“Asking what can we help with and what can you help others with. Is there a special talent that you have or does your business do something that might be able to help through this time.”
Smythe urges businesses to join LinkedIn as another way to market themselves to others.
Conant added that online webinars may be a way to stay connected during this period, along with weekly emails.
“My goal this year is to look at everything we do and make sure it is serving members in a positive way,” Conant said. “Our website is being updated and will focus on events.”
Go to morrowchamber.com for information.