Photo By BOB ROCHE
Peabody Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deanne Healey is optimistic.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
PEABODY—Local Chamber of Commerce leaders look ahead to what the New Year will bring with a sense of positive developments for area businesses.
Deanne Healey, executive director of the Peabody Chamber of Commerce, said the organization just surveyed its membership and found that business owners responded that their top priority for the upcoming year was to find qualified staff.
“People are at the point where they have more confidence to hire more staff and make that investment,” Healey said.
Healey said business owners were also surveyed about whether their business was negatively impacted by an increase in the minimum wage. She said more than 50 percent of those owners said the minimum wage increase had no impact on their business.
“I know it did impact some,” Healey said. “In general, more people answering the survey said it didn’t have an impact on them. Most people were already offering competitive wages.”
Owners were also surveyed about whether their business was impacted positively or negatively from universal health care. Healey said the business owners typically felt that universal health care wasn’t beneficial to their business and didn’t help their employees.
Leslie Gould, president/CEO of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, said she contacted a florist, construction company, window treatment retailer, clothing retailer and a restaurant about how their business went this past year.
“All stated they had to make up for the lost revenue early this year caused by the storms but either maintained or saw a steady increase in business,” Gould said.
Gould said social media and website search optimization helped many owners generate new business or keep loyal customers.
Healey said one particularly positive business venture in Peabody has been the addition of Centennial Crossing in Centennial Park, which has been filled with new stores, medical practices and personal offices.
Healey said Centennial Crossing, located at 2 First Ave., was built and started leasing out space 18 months ago, with a plan to be at 100 percent capacity within three years. Just 18 months later, Centennial Crossing is at 90 percent capacity.
Looking forward to 2016, Healey said chamber initiatives will include a focus on what the business community needs to remain productive and vital. She said the chamber will continue to be a connector, allowing business owners to make connections with other successful owners.
“The role of the chamber is to be the one voice of the business community,” Healey said.
Healey said the chamber is also working on helping the large Brazilian-based business population. She said the goal is to find ways to let them know what resources are available to them as small business owners.
Healey is also excited to see the results of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), which kicked off this year and provides mentorship from successful business owners to middle and high school students. Those students are working on starting their own small businesses.
For the clothing retailer, Gould said she was told that business there has been steady, but the warm weather this fall and winter has slowed sales of winter-wear.
Looking forward to 2016, Gould said the chamber goal is to improve on its program of work already in place, which would include enhancing chamber networking events, business seminars and marketing initiatives. She said that also includes staying on top of social media trends to continually promote chamber members and make them want to continue attending chamber events.
“The best chambers engage as many members as possible and it’s vital that our members feel connected and valued in the organization,” Gould said. “Getting them involved in what we do so there is a constant flow of new and loyal faces, ideas and energy is key.”
Gould said there will also be a focus on finding innovative “movers and shakers” for the commerce economic development speaker series, while continually connecting to elected local, state and federal officials.
“Our biggest challenge, as with many small and mid-size chambers with limited resources and volunteers, is keeping up with the many business issues, policy changes and proposed legislation,” Gould said. “Breaking down those issues so we can effectively communicate how it will affect our business member’s bottom line is also a key ingredient of our mission.”
Gould said the chamber will also work on continuing to find opportunities to collaborate with Lynn and surrounding municipalities and nonprofit organizations by helping them achieve their goals. She said the chamber can assist with public relations, marketing and volunteer efforts.