Chamber of Commerce works behind scenes for county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Many residents of the Tri-State drive by this facility on their way to and from work every day, but they might not know how its people work for them.

The Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce was established in 1983. Located at 216 Collins Avenue in South Point, the chamber employs six people full time and one part time.

The chamber also boasts approximately 250 members from the public and private sector. Members include local business owners, elected officials, civic and non-profit organizations, among others.

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"We are basically a business networking organization," said chamber Marketing Director Viviane Khounlavong.

The aim of networking is to develop economic opportunities for Lawrence County. To that end, members can take serve on the chamber's seven committees: Legislative, Social Affairs and Marketing, Transportation, Natural Resource, Education or Membership.

"What those committees offer is for each of the chamber members to get involved with their specific area of interest," Khounlavong said. "ŠThose committees work directly with state departments and our elected officials on both the state and federal levels."

The education committee, for example, addresses issues facing Lawrence County students, teachers and administrators. It also sponsors Close Up, a national non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings high school students in contact with their political representatives in the nation's capital.

The week-long program offers students the opportunity to attend workshops, seminars with national leaders and visit Washington, D.C., landmarks.

Last year, area businesses donated more than $8100 to the chamber's fund drive for local students wishing to participate in the Close Up program.

"Our chamber of commerce is the only chamber in the United States that supports that (Close Up)," Khounlavong said. "ŠOur goal is to have as many students from our county go without cost to their parents."

Helping Lawrence County overcome its economic obstacles has been the top goal of the chamber since its inception.

During the early '80s, the recession had reached its height, causing high unemployment and lowered financial expectations. It was during that time the Ironton Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce merged to better serve the entire area.

The chamber's members have worked to bring new business to the area, while expanding job creation by current employers like Wal-Mart, Liebert Corporation and Superior Marine Ways, Inc.

While many of the members are business owners or civic organizations, membership is not limited to these individuals or groups.

"Basically just call and inquire," Khounlavong said. "It's all you've got to do-just show an interestŠ.We're open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we're willing to answer any questions people have about the chamber."