Stacy Bruzzese, executive director of the Greater Derry/Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, took a deep breath before launching into her fall 2013 events lineup: a golf tournament, Business After Hours, Business Before Hours, and a special effort to reach younger professionals in the area. There are also seminars, mixers and outreach to the smaller towns with Chamber members.
“Outreach, networking, that’s what the Chamber is all about,” she said.
Bruzzese is finishing her first year as the first full-time director of the Chamber, a year in which she reached her two main goals and helped others reach theirs. She celebrated her first year on the job Sept. 1.
“It has been a great year, a year of building and growth,” Bruzzese said.
Her goals on taking the position were to develop and expand programming for members, and she thinks that goal has been met. “We’ve had positive feedback, from both the members and the community,” she said.
Her second goal was to grow membership, and she thinks she’s accomplished that, with 100 new members over the year. She’s also beefed up programming, with an average of an event a week and sometimes two. Fall 2013 begins with a golf tournament Sept. 9 at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands in Salem, co-sponsored by the Londonderry Rotary Club.
A Business After Hours will be held Sept. 12 at Martinelli Travel, and a Business Before Hours Sept. 18 at Tiffany Gardens, a Londonderry bed-and-breakfast.
The kick-off for the new Young Professionals Group will be Sept. 17 with a Trivia Night at La Carreta Mexican Restaurant in Derry, she said.
Seminars for professionals will include a workshop on LinkedIn Sept. 19 and a goal-setting workshop Sept. 25. Sept. 25 also marks the Chamber’s initial outreach to its smaller towns. “We are going to Windham,” Bruzzese said. A wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lucia’s Bodega is planned, and both Windham members and non-members are invited.
In October she’ll take the show on the road to Atkinson or Hampstead, and systematically reach out over the year to Atkinson, Hampstead, Auburn and Chester. October brings a “mega-mixer” with other Chambers, including Hudson, Merrimack and Souhegan Valley, on Oct. 1 at the Holiday Inn in Nashua. Oct. 10 is the Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the Atkinson Country Club, in which the Business and Citizen of the Year will be named.
A professional development seminar Oct. 16 will teach businesspeople how to get the most out of their tablet devices, in order to better automate their businesses. “We try to be relevant,” Bruzzese said. Oct. 17 will find the Chamber at Pinkerton Academy for a Career Day and Business Expo. The Expo will be open to students during school hours, open to the public later in the day, and will conclude with an as-yet-undesignated guest speaker. “We want to get the kids ‘jazzed up,’ and also make it interesting to the business community,” Bruzzese said.
Oct. 19 brings a Harvest Festival at the Londonderry Historical Society’s Morrison House, complete with pumpkin carving and decorating, a pie eating contest, a pie baking contest, a chili cookoff, and a 5-K run/ walk. “It’s prime apple and pumpkin season,” Bruzzese said. There will be a costume contest, and they’ll end the day with a “business trick-or-treat.”
Bruzzese will also bring back her breakfast forums on economic development, beginning Sept. 26. The three-part breakfast series will focus on Economic Development and Business Growth, Past, Present and Future. For the first of the series, she said, “We’ll look at where we’ve grown from, what impact the railroads had, what impact Route 93 has had.” Speakers for the first forum, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Robert Frost Farm, will be Derry Town Historian Rick Holmes and Windham Town Historian Peter Griffin. She’ll continue throughout the year with “Present,” “Future” and doughnuts.
There’s one goal that Bruzzese, along with town officials and the business community, didn’t see fulfilled this year: the revitalization of Derry’s downtown.
“There has not been a lot of forward momentum there,” Bruzzese said. She has talked with the town’s Economic Development Committee and will attend a workshop with the Town Council in September, she said.
Some of the problems lie with the absentee landowners, who are reluctant to either restore or sell rundown buildings, she said. She recently gave a seminar on the Rail Trail, looking at the trail as it becomes a reality for local communities. “We had a conversation about how you’ll get into downtown, from biking or hiking,” she said. “Where do you go for an ice-cream cone, a cup of coffee?”
As the trail expands to Londonderry, the need will become “more glaring,” Bruzzese said.
For more information on any of these events, call the Chamber at 432-8205.