Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber Celebrates 80 Years
The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce is celebrating 80 years of serving the business community and improving the quality of life for citizens of the city and county.
A delayed 80th Anniversary Celebration is now planned for Dec. 3, 2020 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Castle Hill. The celebration will be limited to the first 100 individuals who RSVP, in order to maintain social distancing and comply with state capacity guidelines. The event will feature live music, food and drinks, a swag box and some unique activities.
Chamber Senior Vice President Pam Swain has worked for the agency for 18 years. Although the event on Dec. 10 will not be able to accommodate all 700 active members of the organization, Swain said it is exciting to finally be able to celebrate and bring business leaders together, in person again.
“One of the biggest things (our members) have missed is being around like-minded business members. Being able to bring them back together is big for us,” she explained, noting the Chamber’s usual slate of After-Hours events, workshops, seminars and even the annual members meeting and Christmas Cocktail Party had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over its 80-year history, the Chamber has evolved with the needs of the business community, Swain said, noting the organization is dedicated in the future to “evolve and remain relevant to be what members need us to be to help their businesses grow.”
When it was first founded in 1940, the chamber focused on “industrial expansion, livestock improvement, marketing, agricultural development… the beautification of public places and highways.” The economy of Oxford and Lafayette County is much different today, and while the Chamber remains focused on improving the quality of life of residents and creating a positive business environment that can grow private enterprises, is doing that by helping connect businesses to the global economy through technology and fostering entrepreneurship. In addition, it’s sister organization the Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Fund was founded in 1992 to focuses on the long-term strategic plans and utilizing public-private partnerships to fund economic development plans in the future.
“To look back at the last 80 years that we have gone from an organization that was here for civic interest, here for beautification and livestock, agriculture and farming, to now be an organization that is trying to find grants and loan opportunities for our businesses to thrive through this past year, through a global pandemic, kind of shows one extreme to the other,” Swain said. “It shows how our organization has continued to change to be whatever it needs to be for the citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County for each given time in the world today. What the members need from us in 2020 is different from they needed from us in 1980 and 1960 and 1940,” she added.
“The Pandemic opened opportunities that we never took seriously before,” said Jon Maynard, President and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Fund and Chamber of Commerce. “People are looking to leave larger metropolitan areas and move to smaller communities in the heartland. The ability to work remotely has never been easier or as highly valued as it is now. We want to make sure that the broadband access, the amenities that people want and need, the quality of life and education are all top notch.
“This will be a focus for us in the next several years. We believe that this is the future of the workplace. We will need to provide the workforce training for our citizens to take advantage of this new paradigm,” Maynard said. “Our Chamber programs must reflect the recent significant change in the modern workplace. Based on the performance of our Chamber, we are up to the task of meeting the demands of the future.”
“The last 80 have been phenomenal from a programing standpoint, and the next 80 is where that is going to pay off,” Allen Kurr, EDF Vice President, said. “Over the last 80 years the Chamber has put together leadership Lafayette, young professionals of Oxford, while the EDF has created programs including Venture Launch weekend and the Big Bad business series. There programs really help young people get engaged in the Chamber of Commerce and the business community. The chamber is here to groom the next generation of business owners and leaders. The previous 80 years set the foundation, for where the next generation will take the lead for the next 80 years.”
Longtime Chamber members also weighed in on the value the organization has provided them.
“I think it’s a great organization, they are interested in promoting our city and county and the more they do that the better off my business is,” said Hugh Robertson, owner of Pitner Office Supply Inc.
Joining the chamber, he said, was a “no brainer,” adding “In tough times, like now, and when you are starting a business, the membership fee may be hard to come by but it is definitely worth it. They are in it to help you. They are very nice people to work with and I have enjoyed it over the years.”
David Brevard, CEO and President of B&B Concrete Co., said his business has been members for nearly 38 years, joining as soon as they opened their Oxford and Lafayette County locations. He said the business was particularly grateful to the Chamber for their help in coordinating the purchase land at the Lafayette County Industrial Park in 2017 for construction of a new ready-mix plant, which began operations in 2018.
“The staff and volunteer leaders of the organization have worked closely with the University, elected officials, and other partners to enhance the economic development and community development of Oxford and Lafayette County. A significant amount of positive growth and development has resulted from the collaborative effort which has been “quarterbacked’ by the organization,” Brevard said. “As the saying goes, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ B & B’s local employment and business operations have grown and benefitted from the work done by the Chamber and Economic Development Foundation,” he added, noting, “We hope that we have contributed to and supported this economic vitality and community development with our products and services.”
Brevard, too, encouraged nonmembers to join.
“We are all connected in the community,” he said. “Membership in the Chamber and Economic Development Foundation is an investment in community building, which is hopeful and positive for all!”
For more information or to RSVP contact the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 662-234-4651. Visit them online at oxfordms.com/chamberofcommerce.
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