By Art Petrosemolo
RED BANK – Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Operating Officer Lynda Rose is a bright, talented, professional, driven woman who loves a challenge. And for sure this Jersey girl, who has never turned away from a challenge in her 25-year chamber career, is in the midst of another one.
Today, Rose leads EMACC – serving the area since 1928 – through uncertain economic times. She is shepherding 500 businesses in 10 communities through changing marketing strategies that force businessmen and women to learn the ins and outs of social media, that have to adjust to changing shopping hours and patterns, and even more importantly, have to give up the mindset of a chamber just running baby parades and sidewalk sales.
“The chamber needs to remain relevant during changing times,” she says. “That’s our goal!
“Welcome to 2012. It’s a whole new world,” Rose says with a smile, “where we all have to be open to new ideas in an ever-changing business environment.”
The key to being successful in business, Rose feels, is education and training. “You would be amazed, shocked really,” she emphasizes, “at how many individuals open a business with no understanding of marketing, customer service or even how to keep the books.
“Today, just having enough capital to start a business isn’t good enough,” Rose says.
Helping new businesses succeed and established businesses adjust to changing times – including using the web and social media in their business plans – is becoming more and more the norm for Rose and other area chamber executives.
Rose reminds her members all the time of the help available to keep their business current. “We have SCORE (retired executives) and the Small Business Development Center to name just two who can help and serve as advisors and mentors.”
The chamber hosts a monthly breakfast meeting for both networking, education and training. A chamber member is invited to make a presentation on his business for the membership.
“Members like to have members as their own suppliers and customers,” Rose says. “We also use the breakfast meetings for guest business speakers, as appropriate, who can bring new information to members, plus networking, networking and more networking.”
The recent economic recession has not only taken its toll on the business community but it also has affected the Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce. Rose remembers when there were five full- and part-time professionals to cover programming, membership, marketing, bookkeeping and other functions. “Now we are down to two full-time staff and one part-time booker,” she says. “We work longer. We work smarter but we get the job done.”
Rose works with Karyn Baggs who handles programming and marketing and has worked at EMACC for five years. Both handle membership.
There are 500 businesses currently part of EMACC. “When everyone was rolling in ‘dough’ in the ‘90s,” Rose smiles, “we had 700-plus members.” EMACC dues are scaled depending on the number of employees but generally in the $200-plus per year area.
The EMACC covers businesses in Eatontown, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Monmouth Beach, Oceanport, Red Bank, Rumson, Sea Bright, Shrewsbury, and Tinton Falls.
Many know the chamber for its association with Red Bank’s annual RiverFest celebration. For more than 30 years, the chamber has had a role in this successful endeavor as lead organizer or in later years in conjunction with the Jersey Jazz and Blues Foundation. RiverFest gives local businesses, especially restaurants, a chance to become more visible to the community and Red Bank visitors. The chamber regained sole management of RiverFest again three years ago and has rebuilt the three-day event to profitability but still a far cry from its heyday.
Some residents and visitors also think EMACC managed the KaBoom fireworks on the Navesink. “That is not the case,” Rose says, “but we always have served on the committee. Traditionally, this was a local, community fireworks show that grew into a three-day extravaganza,” Rose says, “and the costs to run it far exceeded any revenue. And, although the restaurants were mobbed, other businesses did not fare as well.”
Rose believes that KaBoom will return to Red Bank in the years ahead but closer to the size it was when it first began.
One of the chamber functions Rose is most proud of and one she helped to nurture is the EMACC’s Educational Foundation that got its start in 1999. Each year, the chamber provides a grant to a student entering the junior or senior year of college, an adult student returning to school and a student learning a trade at a vocational school.
In more than 20 years, the foundation has awarded more than $150,000 in grants, something of which Rose is justly proud.
The foundation’s signature recognition event is its annual Spinnaker Awards that honors individuals and organization for their service to the community.
This year the EMACC will honor seven at its 21st Spinnaker Awards dinner Nov. 15 at Branches Catering in West Long Branch. They are: Albert Zager, Volunteer of the Year; The Guild of Creative Art, Arts and Culture Award; Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, Public Service Award; Danny’s Grill, Community Service; Arrow Limousine, Corporate Good Neighbor; Lunch Break, Non-Profit Organization of Year; and City of Asbury Park, Special Economic Development Award.
For more information about EMACC programs or joining the chamber, visit it’s website at www.emacc.org or call 732-741-0055.