Chamber changes name; claims membership will rise

By Julia Green
Despite some confusion that initially indicated that the Greater Margaretville Cham-ber of Commerce would be holding meetings to discuss a proposed name change, the chamber officially adopted its new name – the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce last week, following discussions with an attorney.
The decision to change the name was approved by a majority of the members voting. A total of 41 votes were submitted, with 34 of those falling into the “yes” column. The chamber currently has 124 members.
After a challenge was made to the name change process in which the board of directors initially conducted a vote, the board sought the advice of an attorney located outside the area, who indicated that the voting process was not in violation of the bylaws.
“The bylaws requirement for voting is only for board elections and amendments to the bylaws,” said Chamber Executive Director Carol O’Beirne. “Those are the only provisions for actually requiring a vote. Normally when we have votes for elections, if we get 10 votes, that’s a lot. There’s usually a very small number of people voting.
“This was a very clear directive that the membership agreed with our decision, or the board’s decision to move in this direction,” she added.
One of the reasons given for the name change was an attempt at “inclusiveness,” and board members suggested that businesses in neighboring communities such as Andes, Fleischmanns and Roxbury, refused to join the chamber based on the use of “Margaretville” in its name.
O’Beirne said there have been a number of new businesses joining the chamber, which she attributes to the new moniker.
“People are saying that they’re happy to see this change, that they feel like they’re part of a chamber now and it’s very important to them that it has a name that is very inclusive and that they feel is comfortable for them.”
Though the message accompanying the voting ballot that was sent to chamber members noted the group’s goal of a 50 percent increase to its membership by the end of the year, O’Beirne hesitated to voice that aspiration.
“Our goal at the beginning was to increase membership by 50 percent and I think we were maybe at 96 members this spring when we decided that was the direction we wanted to move into. We are casting a wider net, but we have some challenges with the economy and Belleayre having such dramatic cutbacks, and those things make it difficult for small businesses to join.
It really is an investment, but I don’t know how the drive is going to work because I think there are some businesses that are going to close. I think that will affect our ability to grow as much as we wanted to.”
Overall, O’Beirne believes that the majority of the membership is pleased by the name change.
“I would say that everybody we talk to is very positive about it,” she said. “I’m sure there are a few people who are not saying anything publicly about it who are very concerned and are concerned that Margaretville is losing its presence, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. We will continue working aggressively in Margaretville because it’s a business center. We’re not leaving Margaretville.
“We feel very, very strongly that Margaretville is still a center that is going to be supported and promoted.”