Summer marks changes for chambers

By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer
Paul Frey, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President, stands in front of the chamber’s new office location at 1 S. Potomac St. in downtown Hagerstown.

Coping with change has been a summer chore for chambers of commerce in at least three Crossroads communities.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce in Maryland is preparing to move its headquarters into a downtown building that’s being refurbished. In Frederick County, Md., chamber staff members already are working in new quarters in a renovated building downtown. And in Chambersburg, Pa., a national search firm has been hired to help select a new leader for the chamber and its affiliated development corporations.

‘Exciting place to be’

During the next few weeks, if all goes well, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce will move from its current space at 28 W. Washington St. into its new home on the ground floor of the Professional Arts Building at 5 Public Square.
“It looks like our move-in date’s Sept. 1, so that’s good news. … We’re proud to be part of the revival of downtown Hagerstown,” said Paul Frey, chamber president and chief executive officer. “It’s a really exciting place to be.”
The 41,000-square-foot Professional Arts Building is owned by Mike Fitzgerald, who owns the Grand Piano Building and revamped that West Washington Street building.
“Michael and his team are doing the build-out,” Frey said.
He said the drawings were done by Bushey Feight Morin Architects of Hagerstown.
The chamber’s new headquarters will take up the ground floor of the Professional Arts Building.
“We’ll be right there. We’ll have a storefront. We’ll have visibility,” Frey said.
The chamber also will have about double the space, compared to its current quarters, allowing it to host meetings and provide more services to members.
For example, he said, the current chamber space does not have a room to accommodate meetings of the chamber’s own board of directors.
“We’ll have a place to call our own” at the new facility, he said.

The new Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce offices have been guted are being rebuild using many elements of the older construction like large glass block windows.

The move has been in the works for more than two years, Frey said. And because of the timing of the chamber’s fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31, it’s also touched four chamber presidencies. It started under Franklin Morrisey, continued under James A. Sears Jr., is approaching fruition under Gary L. Hayes and will likely be finished as Heather H. Guessford begins her term.
“It’s been good collaboration and good transitioning,” Frey said.

‘Up and running’

The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce officially opened its new offices in downtown Frederick, Md., on June 1, said Elizabeth Cromwell, chamber president and chief executive officer.
“It took us a week or so of transition to get up and running here,” she said.
The chamber, which had been at 8240 Gas House Pike, is now on the second floor of a county-owned building at 118 N. Market St. The Frederick County Office of Economic Development is on the third floor.
“Eventually the first floor will have a really cool IT incubator,” Cromwell said.
She said the move downtown puts the chamber closer to some of its partners, including the county and city offices of economic development.
“It’s a very different kind of feel” being downtown, she added.
The space was renovated to meet the chamber’s needs, she said. A state grant covered “a substantial amount” of the cost, with work done by county staff.
“This is a really efficient space. … We planned where every wall goes,” she said.
The chamber’s mailing address is different from its physical office address: Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 488, Frederick, MD 21705-0488.

Leader at Chambersburg

The Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania has launched a nationwide search for a new president.
“We’d hope to have someone hired by the end of this year or early next year,” said Amy Weibley, the chamber’s communications and strategic initiatives director. She’s serving as the interim executive director.
The chamber has retained Waverly Partners, an executive search firm, to help choose a new leader.
“They have a lot of experience hiring specifically for chambers of commerce,” Weibley said.
Noel Purdy, the former chamber president and executive director of an affiliate, Downtown Chambersburg Inc., resigned on March 8.
Dave Sciamanna, executive director of two chamber affiliates, the Chambersburg Area Development Corp. and the Cumberland Valley Regional Development Corp., initially announced plans to step down at the end of July. He has agreed to stay on through the end of the year, Weibley said.
The plan is for the new person to be chamber president and executive director of both development corporations, Weibley said.
Scott Fish is the interim director of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., Weibley said, adding that the new chamber president will name a permanent replacement later.

Member-to-member

In West Virginia, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce is establishing a member-to-member discount program. It encourages members to buy from other members to save money, increase visibility and promote new business.
Discounts can include a percentage off a product or service, special chamber member gifts or deals, and a free product or service with the purchase of a product or service.
“We are just starting our member-to-member program, and we have had a great response from our members so far,” Tina H. Combs, chamber president and chief executive officer, wrote in a email message
“This is a pretty typical chamber member benefit that we tried to start about five years ago, but didn’t get any interest from our members,” she wrote. “We decided to give it another try this year, and members are interested in participating so we are excited about being able to provide them with another outlet to promote their business.”