Originally created 11/23/05

New president sees changes ahead to strengthen chamber

On your marks, get set ...

Meet with volunteers and discuss new-member orientation. Answer phone calls. Spend lunch learning about the Augusta Futurity and what "futurity" actually means. Send e-mails. Return to the office and meet with the chairman. Answer phone calls. Discuss the future. See a ceremonial tree lighting. Go to a night meeting, and rest.

That was Sue Parr's Tuesday. Just one busy day in her first busy month as president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

So far, she has been running around and getting to know Augusta, Chamber Chairman James Kendrick said.

"She's going to begin to take charge and move forward," he added.

Ms. Parr, 47, is the first female president of the 1,200-member chamber and the first president in nearly a decade with chamber management expertise. She replaced Ed Presnell, a former banker and sales executive who resigned in July.

Ms. Parr previously served as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce in Michigan.

She said she wants to go in-depth, and beyond luncheons, in strengthening business in Augusta.

"We tend to be thought of as the event people," Ms. Parr said.

Although there is value in networking at social events, it isn't all the chamber has to offer, she said. In the coming months, Ms. Parr said, she wants to improve awareness of chamber benefits - including discounts for health insurance and workers' compensation for member businesses.

Thirty days isn't enough time to start new programs, Ms. Parr said, but she will soon jump into the first step - turning to members for ideas.

A member-driven chamber shouldn't rely on brainstorming from the president, she said. After turning to them for criticism and insight, changes can be made.

To improve retention at the chamber, Ms. Parr said, more effort will be put into orienting new members. On Tuesday, she met with volunteers in the chamber's ambassador program. These ambassadors help bring new members into the Augusta network. Programs such as these help Augusta stand apart from other communities, she said.

"Volunteer leadership is far and above what I've seen in other communities," she said, before heading to her next appointment.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.

Welcome to town

After spending more than a month in town, Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce President Sue Parr said she has learned these things about the city:

- It's more than a golf tournament.

- It has "beautiful, tucked-away neighborhoods."

- First Fridays

- Augusta Futurity

- Fort Gordon. "That is an awesome place."

- The variety on Broad Street - from antiques, to lunch, to a haircut


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