January 25, 2015
By Ray Lamont Editor
Promoting business, promoting and supporting economic development, and supporting education.
Those are the three prongs of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce’s platform for 2015, Executive Director Ken Riehl told a gathering of 230 chamber members, local officials and others Saturday night.
Promoting local businesses and working to advance economic development may seem like traditional goals for any chamber of commerce, but Riehl noted that a focus on education has become a special commitment by the Cape Ann chamber as well. The chamber will host its first Cape Ann career and college fair held last year, with plans for another to come.
“It’s about our youth,” Riehl said during Saturday night’s annual chamber meeting and dinner at Cruiseport Gloucester. “We want to make sure that our youth know the job and career opportunities that exist right here on Cape Ann. We want to keep our youth here on Cape Ann as we continue to build for the future.”
Riehl’s remarks were part of a program that, among other things, recapped the chamber’s work in 2014, mapped out an agenda for 2015, and recognized the annual turnover in officers, with local attorney Catherine Schlichte taking the reins as chamber president from Cape Ann Savings Bank Vice President Michael Luster. The audience included a number of city, Cape Ann town and other officials, including Gloucester’s newly appointed mayor, Sefatia Romeo Theken, whose introduction received the loudest cheer of the night.
In her brief acceptance remarks, Schlichte said she had a primary focus heading into the chamber’s 2015 agenda.
“My focus is going to be on membership – growing membership, improving membership services,” she said. The chamber currently has over 800 member businesses.
She emphasized the chamber’s role of promoting the region as much more than a tourism destination — “promoting Cape Ann not just as a great place to visit, but as a great place to do business,” she said.
Riehl, Schlichte and outgoing president Luster also noted the importance of an ongoing chamber fundraising effort — the organization’s license plate project, which offers residents or visitors the chance to buy a Cape Ann license plate, with net proceeds to be funneled back into Gloucester and the towns of Rockport, Essex and Manchester.
The chamber has pre-sold more than 500 plates to date — a third of the way to the state Registry of Motor Vehicles’ requirement for sending the plates into production. But the chamber is seeking to pre-sell up to 3,000 of the plates, a figure that would eliminate the need to post a $100,000 bond for the production. The project has proven a success on Cape Cod and in other communities.
The license plate project was noted by Luster as he stepped down from the presidency.
“If the other cape can make this a success,” he said of the drive, “I’m convinced we can as well.”
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.