Hickory Nut Gorge

May. 03, 2013 @ 05:06 AM

 The Chamber of the Hickory Nut Gorge is open for business and its board of directors and community of supporters celebrated the news Tuesday night.

More than 150 chamber supporters arrived at the new chamber office at the 1927 Arcade Commerce Building in Lake Lure and the new Arcade Grill for the announcement of the new direction the chamber is taking. 

George Whittmer, owner of the arcade properties and grill, sponsored the community wide event. 

With a new name, new office and new staff, the board says the chamber is “Renewed . . .Reinvigorated . . .and Resurgent.”

Board member Chris Braund told the supporters the chamber will be the leader of development in the Hickory Nut Gorge area by marketing and promoting the community to tourists and to residents.

“We must refocus our mission and we want to grow the chamber,” he said.

With the recent management transition of the former Hickory Nut Gorge Welcome Center to the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority, the chamber is using the transition as an opportunity to bring innovation and progress to the community, said board member Mary Jaeger-Gale.

The new chamber ideas and focus have been in the planning stages for about 15 months as the transition between the chamber and TDA was made.

Braund, town manager for Lake Lure, said the chamber board of directors knew it needed to raise the bar on the chamber’s role in the community and to do so, “you have to treat it professionally and hire staff rather than depend solely on volunteers,” Braund said.

“The Town of Lake Lure has a role to play in economic growth and the most efficient way to do this is to contract it with a chamber rather than the town. This is the most important time to get behind the chamber,” Braund said.

Jaeger-Gale said the focus of the chamber is “about working with groups, businesses in Chimney Rock Village, Gerton, Lake Lure and the community. We want to be the ‘go-to’ organization to help these people who come in here to set up their businesses and those who are here.”

Although marketing and promotion of the Gorge and the businesses remain a chamber priority, the new vision places an additional focus on other strageically vital, comnmunity-driven goals, said board members.

Tina Wolfe was introduced as the chamber’s new administrative assistant and will be in the chamber office Monday-Friday with volunteers also assisting.

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Chamber Focus Areas:

Expand high-speed internet availability to the Gorge

Extend the walkway from Lake Lure to Chimney Rock Village

Attract development partners for the Lake Lure Town Center

Establish conference center capabilities and recruit mid-week events

Facilitate the development of starter homes and apartments

Identify and support business needs.

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Program Events

Support existing events such as the Lake Lure Olympiad, Dirty Dancing Festival, Springo, Cycle NC, Christmas in the Village and the Polar Plunge;

Facilitate new events: off season, mid-week, evening, adventure sports, arts, movies and lectures;

Offer business  support programs to train and promote networking.

Lobby local government in support of pro-business and pro-growth policies;

Achieve community goals by assisting in the development, modification or elimination of regulations;

 Develop leaders in the community, identify and develop candidates for local elected office that support businesses, economic prosperity and community improvements.

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