• A Word from the President

  •      March 26, 2019

    Good morning everyone,                                                                                                                 

    I just want to inform everyone on what has been happening here at YOUR Chamber of Commerce over the last month. Needless to say we have been extremely busy with a lot of different focuses as we round out our fiscal year. Just a few weeks ago we wrapped up a very successful Rub O' The Green golf tournament at Sunset Country Club. Congratulations to Team Carolina Chillers for the overall win in both the morning and afternoon tee times. Their winning score of 13 Under was posted in the morning and held up during the afternoon round. Special thanks to all of our sponsors, players and volunteers who helped make this a memorable day.

    Last week we conducted a membership drive with the assistance of Membership 180. Although we fell short of our goal, there were many other highlights to be thankful for. We grew our membership by 11% in just a few days with the help of over 60 volunteers. Congratulations to Team Black Diamond, led by Kim Hatchell, who brought in 35 new members!! Thanks to all of our teams and volunteers who helped us grow.

    Next week we will celebrate our year on Thursday, April 4 at La’ Piazza with the 2019 Annual Gala presented by Thompson Family of Companies. We will be recognizing key individuals and organizations in our community who help make us the team that we are. Awards to be given out are Non-Profit of the Year presented by the Sumter County Cultural Commission, Young Professional of the Year presented by SAFE FCU, Military Citizen of the Year presented by Jones Chevrolet Cadillac, Educator of the Year presented by Caterpillar Hydraulics and the most prestigious award in our community, the Business Person of the Year presented by FTC. Food will be provided by Hamptons and I assure you it will be fantastic as always. After the awards ceremony, stay and enjoy some great entertainment provided byElijah Bradford and the Valentino’s. If you are not familiar with their music, ask anyone who was at the Chamber Retreat back in January. Click here to register as time is running out http://www.sumterchamber.com/events/details/2019-annual-chamber-gala-presented-by-thompson-3083.

    Once the Gala is over, our work still is not done. In May we will be celebrating National Small Business Week in a Big Way. We have educational opportunities available for small businesses during the week and on Thursday, May 9 we will hold the Small Business Celebration presented by Duke Energy. During this event we will recognize our Small Businesses of the Year in the 1-10 and 11-50 employee category. Our small businesses help drive our Chamber and our Community so please come out and celebrate their contributions to our community. Click here to register http://www.sumterchamber.com/events/details/2019-small-business-celebration-presented-by-duke-energy-3169.

    Now, aside from what is happening at the Chamber let me update you on some issues we are following on the advocacy front. Please be sure to review our Legislative Agenda here http://www.sumterchamber.com/2019-legislative-priorities. The Education Reform Bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate for debate. One of the issues we have advocated for is a top priority in this bill, which would raise teacher salaries above the Southeast average. There are many other items in this bill of interest to our community which I have attached as reference. The Military Spouse Licensing bill has passed the House which is also an item on our legislative priorities list. This bill would allow military spouses who hold professional licenses in other states to be reciprocated in our state, as long as it is held current. The debate on Medical Marijuana continues to escalate in both support and opposition. The Chamber has chosen to oppose the passage of Medical Marijuana as we believe it is a workforce development and retention issue in our community. The renewal of the Angel Investment Act is currently in sub-committee though we believe it will be renewed before its expiration in December. This bill allows for additional tax credits/incentives to those investing in startup businesses.

    Finally, we continue to monitor the issues facing our School District. The Chamber has strongly advocated for the School Board to be financially responsible although we are now under a Fiscal Emergency, declared by the State Superintendent of Education. I was in attendance at yesterday’s Rotary Club meeting where Governor Henry McMaster spoke about issues facing our state and being discussed in the general session. The Governor is extremely concerned that the decisions being made on the School Board level are “going to cost us” and that this poor decision making can’t be tolerated on a local and state level. This is currently negatively impacting our ability to positively promote our community regionally, not to mention the concerns from Shaw Air Force Base. Additionally, this is also negatively impacting the Economic Development’s Boards ability to recruit new industry and help to create wealth in our community.

    We are TEAM SUMTER, we can overcome ALL obstacles that face us together but we cannot overcome them individually. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”. Henry Ford


  • Feb. 15, 2019
    This is a statement from the President & CEO of the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce regarding the School Board vote to reopen Mayewood Middle School. 
    “For four hours I sat through the School District Board meeting on Monday evening. At no point in time did I hear any logical, analytical, or educational discussion on the advantages of reopening Mayewood Middle School after last year’s Expanding Opportunities Consolidation proposal, which the Chamber of Commerce supported. What I did hear was a few Board member's intent to steer the conversation away from what should be discussed, to what they wanted to discuss. In addition, the reopening of F.J. Delaine Elementary is now a possibility, which would completely reverse the consolidation proposal that was approved last year.
    With our school district still under a State fiscal watch, it appears this decision has gained the kind of attention we as a community simply do not want. These are our schools, our community, our children, and our people; we encourage you to voice your opinion on the matter and contact the School Board members so we can work together as a cohesive unit to support the future prosperity of Sumter's education system and the community as a whole."
  • Jan. 28, 2019

    Good morning everyone,

      The last few weeks have been extremely successful for your Chamber of Commerce while at the same time focusing on what is coming up the first half of this year. To start, I want to share with you some of my thoughts from the 2019 Chamber Retreat that took place a few weeks ago in Hilton Head, SC. The entire weekend was a huge success and thanks to everyone that helped make it, per many of the attendees, “one of the best retreats if not the best in a long time”. Granted this was only my fourth, but hey, I will take that kind of feedback anytime. The weekend started off with a Low Country Boil & Barbecue on the Pavilion deck at the Sonesta Resort with a steel drum band entertaining the attendees. Special thanks to Duke Energy and Thompson Family of Companies for sponsoring the event and allowing us to make it memorable. In previous years, Friday consisted of a reception immediately followed by dinner on your own. After receiving feedback on one of the main benefits of attending the retreat, we felt it would be more valuable to host an event that involved everyone. Personally, I think the Friday night event was what made the most difference and we look forward to including this annually in the future. 

    With the theme of the Retreat being “Celebrate Sumter” the Saturday morning sessions included updates from various community partners presenting their recent successes featuring retail and hospitality growth, how energy has helped grow Sumter, how Law Enforcement is on our side, and positive updates from Economic Development. The afternoon featured extra curriculars such as attendees enjoying an escape room, shopping, and a Golf Tournament. Saturday evening we celebrated by “Dressing For the Decades” with entertainment provided by Elijah Bradford and the Valentino’s, a local band out of Dalzell. Saturday evening’s event was sponsored by Black River Electric and Sumter Economic Development Group. Also, a special thank you to SAFE Federal Credit Union for sponsoring the band and to everyone who participated in the evening’s theme. We saw some great outfits that will be remembered for quite some time.

    The positive vibes continued during Sunday morning’s sessions which included an update from the Young Professionals of Sumter, recent successes in higher education, our progress in K-12 education, economic development and local government. Thank you to all of our Retreat sponsors who helped make this a true celebration of Sumter, we couldn’t have done it without you!

    Now, we must focus on what is in front of us. You will be hearing much more about this soon, but the next few months will be a very busy time for Chamber Staff and our volunteers. On Friday, March 15 we will host the 2019 Rub O’ the Green golf tournament to be held at Sunset Country Club. This is always a great time and we know this year will be no different. The following week the Chamber will be conducting the “Celebrate Success” membership campaign with a goal of 150 new partners joining our organization. On Thursday, April 4 the Chamber will hold our Annual Gala once again at La’ Piazza downtown. We are also planning some great programs and events during Small Business week in early May to include a Small Business Celebration on May 9 at the new Patriot Park facility. Please be sure to put these dates on your calendar and join us as we continue to Celebrate Sumter!

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

    Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce


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