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Highland Chamber Of Commerce Office Relocating

What’s old is new again.

Or, maybe it’s what’s new is old again.

Either way, we’ll let Josh Umar, Executive Director of the Highland County Chamber of Commerce, explain.

“We are going to return to what a lot of people consider as our historical home, which is The Highland Center. The goal is to close for the move on the afternoon of Friday, September 7th, and re-open for business as usual the afternoon of Monday, September 10th. So, we think we can get it done in a weekend, and not lose much time in taking care of our members.

“As you walk in the front door, Highland Center staff on the right, Visitors’ Center on the left, and we’ll be downstairs, right below the Highland Center staff.”

He detailed the reasons for the move.

“For us, the main motivation is to improve the service to Chamber members, and improve our ability to market the county as a whole. We feel like, we’ve been on Main Street, and that’s been good, but despite the fact that we’ve been on Main street, a lot of people have had trouble finding us, locating us – and so we feel like this move,  going back to a place where we’re easily found, and where people are familiar with us being, from back before the time when the Center closed for its renovations, it’s really going to increase our accessibility, and our responsiveness to our Chamber members, and again, just to members of the public at large, visitors who might stop in. We want to be out there, and we want to be seen, and we want to be available to people.

“One of the other reasons that we’re getting back into The Highland Center is that after the renovation over there, that’s a state of the art building, and they ‘ve got the fiber optic internet, it’s very energy efficient, so we’ll be saving some money there, in the sense of heating and cooling bills. And we feel like having that higher level of technology, higher level of accessibility, saving money in certain ways through efficiency – that’s going to help us serve our members better in the long run.

And it’s also going to make it possible to coordinate with the Highland Center staff and some of their tenants. As one example, we’ve been working with the Arts Council, and they’ve really stepped up in a big way to help us with festival entertainment. And those kinds of relationships will be much easier and more straightforward, because we’re going to be in the same place. Same thing with some of the initiatives that The Highland Center has going that we as a Chamber want to help get word out about – their business incubator, their retreat/conference facility. Again, all those relationships are much more straightforward and easy to manage when you’re right there together in the building.

“And then finally, the Visitors’ Center is there, and that is a Chamber responsibility, to make sure that the Visitors’ Center is up and running, along with our partners at the Highland center and the Tourism Council. But we feel it’s our responsibility to do the legwork, and it’s just much easier to coordinate all your volunteers and all your marketing materials, and make sure that people are there to greet visitors if you’re in the same building. And being there will allow us to ensure certification of our visitors’ center as a certified tourist information center. And the nutshell there is that makes it much easier and much more cost effective to get word out about Highland to all the other certified tourist information centers in the state.. So there’s going to be a lot of benefits, not to mention, of course, that you’re going to have handicap accessible parking  and lighting, so all things considered, it’s, we think, the best move.”

Betty Mitchell, Executive Director for The Highland Center shares Mr. Umar’s enthusiasm.

“We’re just delighted to have the Chamber of Commerce moving back into The Highland Center. What a lot of people may not know is that it was the Arts Council and Chamber who came together 21 years ago for the founding of The Highland Center. We’ve always had a close working relationship with the Chamber, and being in the same building, we think there are just lots of synergies and ways to work together more closely.”

“If you’re a Chamber member, we invite you to come to the annual dinner and meeting. It’s Sunday, September 30th, and that will give you a chance to socialize with some of your fellow Chamber members, hear a little bit from me on my plans for the Chamber, get a good meal, and see the new office space.”

Story By

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Scott Smith

Scott is the News Director for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan, and also is a member of the boards of the Highland-Bath Farm Bureau , Highland Chamber of Commerce and Highland Sheep and Wool Association. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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