The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce office is in the historic Coal House in downtown Williamson. The chamber is a certified non-profit, stand alone organization that is neither city or county funded. The chamber relies on membership, fundraisers, and retail sales as their primary source of income. According to the TVCC online site this membership-based organization focuses on business and member networking, promoting entrepreneurship, and small business startups.
Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce Interim Executive Director Randall Sanger is also a small business owner. He’s a professional photographer, and owns Randall Sanger Photography. As a member and director, Randall can personally vouch for the importance of networking opportunities through the chamber.
“My business is experiencing a nice increase locally that only occurred when I became a member, and this is due to the networking among the membership. Members can take advantage of business-to-business commerce and the advantages are tremendous,” says Randall.
Several networking opportunities are available to Chamber members each month. The Chamber hosts a monthly informative and networking luncheon for all members. This luncheon allows members to meet and talk with one another, enjoy a guest speaker, and find out what’s happening in Chamber business. Monthly “Business b4 Business” networking mornings are offered once per month to encourage members to get together for a cup of coffee at the Coal House. A “Business After Hour” program is starting in February for members to meet after the workday is finished. This has been offered on an irregular basis, but Chamber Board President Chris Dotson hopes to make this a semi-monthly offering.
“We want our members to connect, collaborate, and support one another. As a Chamber we want to promote and support our members and one way we do this is connecting them. As they talk, they find out what each business offers and how they can work together. One reason we offer meetings in the early morning, lunchtime, and after hours is to give more members the opportunity to meet, talk, share ideas, and be involved with the Chamber,” says Chris.
Membership Has Its Advantages
Randall says, “I can also speak to the importance of membership. For example, I was able to take part in several Chamber promotions that allowed me to showcase my work to folks that wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.”
Each day, Randall receives many calls at the chamber office from people asking for referrals and suggestions for services in our community and he always recommends Chamber members first. One of the Chamber’s objectives is to develop and initiate more business activity for the community, and the Chamber is fundamental to the growth and continued revitalization of our area.
During the year, different workshops, conferences, and training opportunities are scheduled through the Chamber to assist members in their businesses. Through social media accounts, businesses are invited to share their information with the Chamber so events and promotions can be promoted through the Chamber accounts.
Currently, the Chamber membership has grown to more than 100 members. The Chamber has members from across Mingo County, WV, Pike County, KY, Raleigh, Kanawha, and Cabell County, WV to name a few! As more members join and become active members, the Chamber will increase membership advantages.
“We have an Executive Director, three officers, and a full board of directors, but it takes all members taking an active role in this membership organization for the Chamber to reach the next level. It’s exciting for us when we have a new member join, we are able to host ribbon cuttings, and announce we have a new members, but it’s even more exciting when our members get involved to make the Chamber stronger and support one others,” says Chris.
The Chamber does rely on yearly membership dues for the bulk of their annual operating cost, which includes salary for the Executive Director and operating costs to keep the Coal House open for the community and visitors. Membership opportunities are available for businesses of any size, non-profit organizations, and individual members from the communities that are interested
in supporting the Chamber and Coal House.
The Chamber also offers a wide variety of retail items in the Coal House. Official Hatfield-McCoy Trails merchandise, trail passes, shirts, hats, and other items with local flair, books, art, food, coffee, jewelry- it’s all at the Coal House! One part of the job Randall has enjoyed is being able to work with several small businesses and regional artisans to select new inventory for the retail space.
“A purchase from the Coal House not only benefits the Chamber, but also the Chamber member that supplied us with their products. I encourage everyone to stop in and visit when they have the opportunity and check out all that we have,” Randall says.
The largest fundraiser for the Chamber is the annual Coal Dust Run. Hosted in September, this evening fun run is fashioned after the popular “color run”, but participants are dusted with mock coal dust!
The Chamber is currently reaching out to property owners and aspiring small business owners. They are hoping to catalog vacant retail spaces and commercial property available in the Tug Valley area to help with businesses interested in locating in our area and entrepreneurs looking for a storefront. If a person is thinking of starting a small business in the area, but isn’t quite sure where to start, they are encouraged to contact the Chamber office. Acting as a connection between resources available and those with a small business dream, the Chamber hopes to see new shops and services become available in the towns they serve!
“We have award-winning businesses as members of our Chamber. I’m certain many of these business owners would gladly serve as a mentor for someone thinking of starting a new shop. Plus, we can point you in the right direction for business coaching, funding sources, and locations,” says Chris.
The Future of the Chamber
While discussing the future of the chamber, Randall gives his hope of increased membership and more active and involved members. For increased membership, he would like to see members that might have let their membership lapse renew their membership and gain new members across the area as well. Randall would also like to see more involvement from the membership, from attending Chamber meetings and functions, to working on various Chamber related projects.
Randall continued, “I’d like to see more local support for our local businesses. Small businesses need each other and member to member support is crucial for all of our small businesses to survive and thrive.”
“The future of our communities is bright,” says Chris, “We all need to support one another. That’s how our area will continue to grow, attract new businesses, and gain more stability.”
The Coal House
We can’t write an article about the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce without a little info on the office space. The Chamber operates in the Historic Coal House or as Randall’s 5-year old daughter Hannah calls it, “The Cool House.” Hannah’s right- it is pretty cool! The Coal House was built in 1933 and yes, it’s really made of Coal! It is a top visitor sight for tourists in our area, but locals are always invited to come in to look around at the unique retail items, find information on local happenings, ask for recommendations for services, restaurants, and other needs.
The Final Word
“I’d like to see us all, as a Chamber and in our communities work together to move forward and build a stronger, more successful region,” says Randall.
Well said, Randall.
Growing together, supporting one another, and encouraging people in their dreams to make our communities a better place for everyone is what it’s all about.
To find out more information about joining as a business, non-profit, civic organization, or individual,the business directory ,or other contact information, you can find the TVCC online at:https://tugvalleychamber.com/