• Chamber Chat

    News from Executive Director, Laura P. Doster

    Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber Hitting its Stride

    With Strong, Engaged Leadership in Place, it's poised for a banner year ahead

    By Laura P. Doster
    Executive Director
    February 2020: It is difficult to believe it has almost been one year since I joined the Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge as your director.  Time flies when you're having as much fun as I'm having. 

    What a year it has been for your Chamber, and what year it is shaping up to be!

    Thanks to the efforts of a well-oiled committee, we closed out 2019 with another successful Holiday Gala, bringing into the Chamber's budget record-breaking net revenues of $23,000. The community's support of this long-running local's event is one important leg of the stool that ensures smooth operation of your Chamber.

    The year was full of many successful achievements, all thanks to our working board of directors, part-time and contracted staff, numerous volunteers, a supportive resident community, and a cadre of event committees that go above and beyond. (More on that below).

    Hickory Nut Gorge has a small population, but we are a dedicated and hard-working community of business owners, real estate professionals, non-profits, stakeholders, retirees, and municipal leaders.  As Chimney Rock Village Mayor Peter O'Leary recently said, "While we can survive alone – together we thrive!

    If you have not met your 2020 Board of Directors and Officers, they are:

    President, Crystal Morrison. Buddy Morrison Photography
    Vice President and Events Co-Chair, April Schick. April's Boutique & Chimney Rock Manor
    Treasurer, James Cain. Rumbling Bald Resort
    Secretary, Andrew Mize. Canopy Ridge Farms
    Teri Coutu – Chair Membership. Teric Enterprise Solutions, LLC
    Laura Krejci – Co-Chair Events/Economic Development. The Town of Lake Lure
    Jennifer Duncan. Carolina Trust Bank
    Thomas Keever. Lake Lure Classical Academy
    Howard Redmon. Cedar Creek Stables
    Diane Daneau. Marathon Builders
    Rick Stockdale. Myriad Women’s Health

    For an extended look at 2019 achievements and milestones, see below.  

    2019 Accomplishments







    Job Descriptions for staff


    Hiring Executive Assistant - one employee 4 days/week


    Branded Presentation Templates


    ChamberMaster Training held with staff


    Editorial Calendar established


    Created "Dirty Dancing Merchandise Store" in Chamber offices



    Board of Director/Executive

    Definitive Committees w/Designated Chairpersons


    New Board Member Packages


    Hired Executive Director


    New Board Nomination Governance/Success


    Organization of Board - creating culture, "working" board vs "advisory" board


    First Nominating Committee established for election - high number of interested candidates


    Action plans established with Committees


    Governance Established - BOD Agenda/timeframe/Bylaw review/voting/absenteeism


    Community Leadership Alliance Committee formed - face to face meetings cadence with key decision makers of Gorge community leaders


    Budget Presentation to the Town 

    Economic Development

    Attendance of the NC Economic Development Workshop in Marion


    Moved Dirty Dancing Festival to September - 50% increase in sales for CRV


    Affinity Assisted Living Approved - groundbreaking, TBD.


    Chamber Presentation to Town


    Memorandum of Understanding established with the Town of Lake Lure for an additional $10,000 investment


    Established and Strengthening Relationship with Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce


    Attendance to Isothermal Housing Planning Session - trends and how to grow our "reasonable" housing segments


    Meeting with Appalachian Regional Planning Commission, (ARC) - Community Development Planning & Economic Development


    Promoting Lake Lure Rowing Club - facilitating introduction to ARC for funding opportunities

    Community Development

    Presentation to Rutherford County Mayors & Town Managers


    Community Development Chairperson established


    Comm Dev Brainstorming Sessions - 2 Saturday morning sessions with strong attendance


    Candidates Forum - 2 forums hosted and led by Chamber


    Joined & attended conferences for Carolina Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and Western North Carolina CACCE


    Attended 1st CACCE Fall Conference in Myrtle Beach


    Attended 1st WNC CACCE Fall Conference in Asheville


    Hosting WNC CACCE Spring Conference in the Gorge



    Membership Development

    Created Cheat Sheet & Website slicker - Membership Benefits


    Membership Services Chairperson


    New Member Packages created and implemented


    Improved Communication w/Membership


    Recharges all filled for 2019


    Annual Picnic Meeting held and presented financial YTD results


    Sent out Survey to Members on "wish list"


    One on One meetings with lost members - feedback



    Marketing/Social Media

    E-Newsletter - consistent delivery


    FB - consistent bi-weekly postings – increased engagement and followers


    Weekly condensed e-blast of upcoming events - higher open and click rate


    Articles in The Breeze, Daily Courier


    Coordinated itineraries for media fam visits from South Carolina and Florida


    The Gorge Online Calendar promoted and growing


    Mother's Day Giveaway's - WTZQ Campaign


    Seasonal press releases


    Sale on the Trail - largest ever


    Holiday Gala - record net revenues


    Dirty Dancing Festival - highest ticket sales/attendance - moved to shoulder season with positive impact to merchants


    Volunteer Program Chairperson established




    Financial Team established, Budgets established and approved for 2020


    New Treasurer appointed - revamp of Treasurer's Report for monthly Board Meetings



    The Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge - Your advocate and representative with Local Government

    Much of our work on behalf of our members or in the name of strengthening tourism and the local economy is slow, quiet work involving a lot of collaborative partners. One such partner is the Town of Lake Lure. Your Chamber and its board leadership are committed to having a seat at the table when it comes to the decisions and direction we all take to move the Gorge forward.

    That commitment is indeed collaborative, as the Town of Lake Lure is the largest financial stakeholder support that the Chamber has. We take this level of support seriously and understand that it means we work closely with the Town in identifying and executing together those initiatives and projects that will best benefit the citizens and visitors to our area.

    Over the next year, we will provide updates to our members on how we are specifically working with the Town on several economic development fronts.

    For now, you may wish to review our 2019 State of the Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber Presentation to the Town of Lake Lure, made earlier this year.