As Brookhaven’s new city government takes shape, the business community is organizing as well.
The Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce had its first official day Jan. 1, said Todd Lantier, the chairman of the board of directors.
The chamber evolved from the Brookhaven Community Connection, a monthly networking group for Brookhaven businesspeople. When it came time for the nonprofit to refile its articles of incorporation, the group officially changed its name to the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce.
The leaders of the Brookhaven Community Connection – including Lantier, who served as president – stayed on to become founding members of the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce. Arthur Freeman was brought in to act as the chamber’s executive director and CEO, and Terrell Carstens is the deputy director.
One of the chamber’s main functions will be to serve as an advocate for businesses at City Hall.
“We are the voice of businesses in Brookhaven,” Freeman said.
Lantier said the board is more than just symbolic leadership – members are taking a very active role in the chamber’s startup.
“We are the employees,” Lantier said. “We’re all giving money, we’re seed funding it. Our commitment to this is we’re putting our own money here.”
The chamber’s leaders are no strangers to start-up organizations after spending the past several months helping to create the city of Brookhaven.
Lantier represented District 2 on the Governor’s Commission on Brookhaven. Freeman and Carstens volunteered for the commission to help get the new city up and running, Freeman said.
“We were all heavily involved in the movement and ultimate creation of the city,” Freeman said.
Freeman said he was retired before taking the executive director position for the chamber, having spent part of his career in environmental engineering and part of his career in information technology. He volunteered to work with Brookhaven Yes, an advocacy group that promoted creation of the city of Brookhaven.
“It was kind of interesting because I was a retired citizen and decided to just volunteer with Brookhaven Yes. But because of my background, I kept getting placed in positions with more and more responsibility,” Freeman said. “When it was over, I realized I was out of work and I liked it too much. It would be kind of fun to continue in some capacity. I did not want to work for City Hall, but then Todd [Lantier] came by and offered me the position of executive director and I jumped on it.”
Freeman said the chamber is now in the process of organizing and planning. Committees have been formed to concentrate on membership, business development, economic development, education and the work force. A public announcement and inaugural event are in the works for February.
“We’ve had two board of directors meetings putting together our strategic plan for 2013,” Freeman said.
Lantier said he’s pleased with the new chamber’s direction.
“I’m thrilled. I’m really excited about how things are going,” Lantier said.