Chamber of Commerce’s role expanding

AMHERST – Expanding the role of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce is the main job of the group’s new team — Executive Director Lynda Derby and Administrative Assistant Judy Leeds.

“We’re trying to get us more known in the community,” said Derby, who was hired this month.

New programs in the works including a regular Business Before Hours get-together, to go along with the Business After Hours events that have long been the chamber’s mainstay; a welcome package for newcomers to the chamber’s 13 towns; and a push to publicize tourism-related events and places in the area.

“These are things that members have asked for,” said Derby.

The chamber, which separated from the Nashua chamber in 1988, has about 225 members, ranging from large companies like Hitchinger Manufacturing, Wal-Mart and The Telegraph, down to one-person operations, said Derby.

In recent years, its profile has diminished, which apparently was at least of the reason that the board of directors fired former director Gail Coryell last month. The group cited “performance issues” in the decision.

Derby, who has lived in Mont Vernon for 22 years, has a background that includes the computer industry, non-profit organizations, accounting and running her own small business in interior design.

That combination of technical, business and non-profit experience led her to seek the job, she said.

Leeds is the former director of the Wilton Main Street Program. Her part-time work will include such things as seeking grants, an area where Derby has little experience.

Her Wilton experience is also helpful, as the chamber is expanding its reach in that town, Derby said.

Other programs that the chamber will be looking include publicity for members, involvement in volunteer work and helping children’s programs, such as the new Souhegan Valley Boys & Girls Club facility in Milford.

Business seminars and training for member companies will also be expanded, she said.

The chamber is based in the Souhegan Professional Building, on Route 101A in front of Wal-Mart.