The two newest members of the Rome Floyd Chamber leadership team, Pam Powers-Smith and Thomas Kislat, are settling into their new roles and ready to help rejuvenate the local economy.
Powers-Smith is the new director of Business and Industry Services while Kislat is the director of Membership and Entrepreneurial Development.
Kislat’s post was held by current Chamber President Jeanne Krueger and had been vacant for close to a year as Krueger transitioned to her new post.
“We have more new members since the pandemic started than we’ve had members drop,” Kislat said. He has helped add 15 new members since April while only seven have dropped during that same period of time.
“We’re getting approximately one new chamber member a week and there are a few pending right now,” Kislat said. “And they’re not just companies from here. Some are from Marietta and Cartersville so I think that goes to show that Rome remains a strong market.”
The chamber has played a lead role in the promotion of entrepreneurial opportunities for the last decade.
“We need to work with the talent that is here and need to keep that talent here,” Kislat said. “The interaction between inventors, companies, the colleges remains a strong item on the agenda.”
Kislat said the COVID-19 pandemic has helped some businesses take a long, hard look at how they’ve always done things and how they might need to change in the future. He cited use of retail websites as one way some businesses have been able to continue to stay alive and introduce their goods and services to even larger markets.
The chamber has also launched a Shop Chamber website to support local businesses who may not have a website of their own.
“There are about six vendors on there right now and the feedback has been amazingly good,” Kislat said.
The chamber also offers startups the OTR Entrepreneurial Suite, with four computer-equipped work stations to help new businesses ease into the community without huge upfront costs.
Powers-Smith joined the Rome Floyd Chamber from Opelika, Alabama, where she served as president of the Opelike Chamber of Commerce for a little more than three years.
One of the main components of her job is assisting members of the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association.
“I consider myself a problem solver for them, a conduit for them if they need anything from the city or county,” Powers-Smith said. “The other import piece of that is making sure that our legislators know what helps local businesses and what hurts them, that sort of thing.”
Since Powers-Smith came to the chamber, all of the GREIA meetings have been held via Zoom. That means she’s only gotten to know many of them via the computer and said she’s excited for the time when she is able to get out and have more face-to-face contact with the manufacturing community in Rome and Floyd County.
Much of the focus of recent meetings has dealt with how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic with an emphasis on some of the OSHA guidelines that have changed. Transportation issues have also been a big topic recently.
“We’ve had some economic folks talk with them about predictions for the coming months, which are actually pretty good,” Powers-Smith said.
“As of Friday (July 24) we didn’t have anybody not in production,” Powers-Smith said. “We still have a few running limited lines but everybody’s working.”
She also said that there has been a lot of talk about the growth of the Appalachian Regional Inland Port and use of that facility to help get local products to the port of Savannah and out to the world.
She said the majority of the manufacturers and major industrial firms are members of GREIA, which is still being led by Mark White at Fairbanks. John Cothran from Brugg Lifting North America will take over in December.