New leader takes helm at South Hadley/Granby Chamber of Commerce

  • Mariann Millard, the new executive director of the South Hadley and Granby Chamber of Commerce is shown last week at the South Hadley-Granby town line on Silver Street in South Hadley and West Street in Granby. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mariann Millard, the new executive director of the South Hadley and Granby Chamber of Commerce, is shown last week in Granby. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mariann Millard in the South Hadley office of the South Hadley and Granby Chamber of Commerce. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The Center Pharmacy is shown last week in Granby. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@kate_ashworth
Published: 5/28/2017 9:19:11 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Change is the new mantra at the South Hadley & Granby Chamber of Commerce, an organization keen on promoting businesses in the neighboring towns along the Route 202 corridor.

Two months into her position as executive director, Mariann Millard has a list of changes she’s juggling, including creating a new website, redesigning the organization’s logo and enhancing its membership system.

“I like change,” said Millard, 59, during an interview last week from the Chamber’s Lyman Street office. “It’s lots of fun. Though it’s a lot of work to restart a chamber.”

Millard said the chamber has been lacking the energy and direction needed. It became obvious that the chamber wasn’t adhering to its mission statement to grow and promote businesses, she said. As a result, membership started to decline, along with enthusiasm to attend events and overall awareness of the chamber.

Millard, who replaced Dale Johnston as executive director on March 27, has an eclectic background — nurse, tour guide and mother of triplets — that she believes will help her lead a revival of the duel-town chamber that currently has 60 members. She hopes changes in the works will grow chamber membership to over 100.

The South Hadley Chamber started in 1959. Millard said there is no record of when Granby joined the chamber.

With 6,000 residents, Granby is three times smaller than South Hadley’s population of 18,000. Millard said Granby would like to keep its agricultural feel, but still grow into a more vibrant economy.

South Hadley’s business community consists of several key economic centers including routes 202 and 33, South Hadley Falls, Old Woodlawn Plaza, and the Town Commons, as well as pockets of other businesses throughout town. The goal for the chamber is to increase opportunities for collaboration among the different business enclaves and create an atmosphere that’s inviting for new businesses.

Chamber revamp

Millard’s overall focus as executive director involves revamping the chamber.

“My role has really been to question everything that we’re doing,” she said.

Robert Desnoyer, the chamber’s president, said the board of directors is excited to make changes as well. He said they plan on collaborating with chambers from Holyoke and Chicopee, such as partnering for promotional events.

Desnoyer said some members were concerned with the chamber losing its identity. That’s partly why the chamber is working on a strategic master plan, which Milliard hopes will reassure current, potential and new members that the nonprofit has their best interests in mind.

One of the biggest changes is the membership system.

The membership used to have two options: basic and premier. Those options are further divided into two tiers each based on the number of employees a business has.

Millard said she’s creating a business membership with a three-tier system with more benefits and incentives while taking away the employee qualification.

For companies that do business in South Hadley or Granby, and want to be connected with the local chamber, Millard said there will be an affiliate membership to help promote those businesses.

There will also be a membership for startup businesses that includes a discount for joining plus help with networking.

“Startup businesses are in a real crunch financially,” Millard said. “We want to be a resource to them.”

One new Chamber member, Michele Lyman, who owns Serenity Yoga Studio, looks forwarded to increased collaboration with other business owners under Millard’s leadership.

Serenity Yoga jointed the chamber last September, about the same time she went full time with the business after four years of part-time work.

“I thought joining the chamber would be a great idea to meet fellow business owners in town, grow relationships and potentially bring more business into my studio,” Lyman said in an email.

She said so far the chamber has not impacted her business directly, but acknowledges that it takes time to grow relationships. 

“My hope is that we develop great programs where chamber members can network, support each other’s growth and also positively impact the communities of South Hadley and Granby,” she said.

Website

For the website, Millard plans on offering a member-to-member private portal which allows businesses to connect online, share ideas and collaborate. Members will also be able to pay annual dues online.

She’s also created a new Facebook page to help spread public awareness on the chamber and the local businesses.

“Social media has taken off,” she said.

And to show the chamber is inclusive and serves both towns, Millard said there needs to be a new logo that represents both areas. 

“We are dedicated to thinking outside the box,” Millard said. “So whatever we’ve done in the past — great if it works, if it doesn’t, onward we go.”

Eclectic background

Millard believes her eclectic background will be an asset in as head of the chamber.

Early in her career, she worked as a registered nurse, and did a variety of work such as drug clinical research, workers compensation and private duty registry management.

Millard is also a mother of triplets which she says has helped her gain organizational skills.

In the early 2000s she wanted a change and decided to become a certified tour director. Millard became a licensed Washington D.C. guide and started managing tours throughout the United States. Her new career took her oversees where she spent time directing tours in Italy.

“I think everyone should be a tour director … at least for a year,” she said.

Millard settled down in South Hadley in 2014. She’s now the chairwoman of the Bike Walk Advisory Committee and the co-chairwoman of the River Roll & Stroll festival. Millard said volunteering is a great way to meet friends and get to know the community.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.


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