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Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce remains focused on creating strong community after 110 years

By SAM COOLEY

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce recently celebrated the 110th anniversary of its founding June 15, 1908.

During the past 110 years much has changed, but the chamber’s mission remains the same, to help grow the county’s economy, said Debbie Hudson, chamber president and CEO.

Many area economic leaders agree that the chamber is vital to keeping the local economy strong.

“I think the chamber is the engine that keeps the business community moving forward,” said Chesney Doyle, president of FOR Natchez. “They are involved in every project that has the potential to promote businesses in Natchez. … I’m particularly appreciative and supportive of the work they do with young professionals and young entrepreneurs.”

Examples of programs the chamber has created in recent years are an education committee for pre-K to college to build relationships between education and businesses, a tourism council that addresses the issues facing the hospitality industry and bringing businesses together in a way others cannot, Hudson said.

Some of the most recent changes the chamber has made to stay relevant in Natchez and Adams County, include “the addition of a Young Professionals group, a high school junior Youth Leadership Program, Friday Forums with Alcorn State University and a new marketing strategy that deals with the ever-changing social media demands,” Hudson said.

Doyle said she believes helping develop young leaders is important.

“Leaders are grown and mentored,” Doyle said. “The work that the Chamber does is critical to the future of Natchez in that regard.”

In order to achieve the chamber’s goals, the organization requires a smart and flexible strategy, Hudson said.

“To make a chamber viable, you need a strategic plan that constantly targets your community’s needs,” she said. “You also need to check that plan every year and if you aren’t meeting those needs for either your members or your community, then you must be ready to change your goals.”

Recent changes in the chamber’s marketing strategy include a new focus of attracting the county’s youth to the chamber through such programs as the chamber’s Youth Leadership Program and its young professionals group.

“We keep an eye on our new membership, with our young professionals being one of our main focuses,” Hudson said.

The Chamber also focuses on aiding members by helping them expand marketing opportunities and increasing business networking with events such as ribbon cuttings, after-hours and quarterly luncheons.

“I’m grateful for the support that Debbie Hudson and her board have given to our organization (FOR Natchez),” Doyle said. “We continue to rely on (the chamber’s) Downtown Merchants group, which has worked hand-in-hand with FOR Natchez to move the downtown master plan forward. I think Debbie Hudson is a particularly effective leader.”

Hudson said people don’t have to be chamber members to enjoy some of the benefits.

“You can call the chamber office or look on Facebook for events we offer to the whole community,” Hudson said. “Meetings such as our legislative breakfasts are open to the public where you can meet state and federal legislators as well as local candidates through forums.”

The Chamber of Commerce has aided Natchez and Adams County for more than a century, and Hudson said that would not change anytime soon.

“We will always strive to look for ways we [the Chamber] can be of assistance to this community as we help to create a strong and vibrant place to live, essential to the growth and stability of our region,” Hudson said.

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