By Amanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer
Promoting local businesses and improving the quality of life in Choctaw County is the main goal of the Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce. With almost six months of existence, the Chamber has been busy creating a board, holding ribbon cuttings and providing other activities for businesses and the community. John Scott, assistant executive director, explained that the Chamber has separate duties of economic development, promoting local businesses and improving the quality of life in Choctaw County. He said the economic development side is where the Chamber and the Choctaw County Economic Development Foundation recruit bigger prospects (businesses, industries) to try to improve the economy as a whole. Scott said that promoting local businesses or being “local business oriented” is the primary goal of the Chamber of Commerce. To achieve this goal the Chamber holds ribbon cuttings for new businesses, sponsors the annual Christmas Open House and JuneFest, the county’s annual festival. They also sponsor the Brown Bag Lunch Program, a civic club that meets once a month with a guest speaker. A new promotion beginning in April is Buy Local First which will promote shopping at local businesses before leaving the county to shop. The Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Mississippi State University Research Institute to provide Lunch and Learn workshops and business seminars. Coming later this year will also be the Chamber sponsored Business after Hours. The Chamber also plans to help improve the quality of life in Choctaw County by sponsoring events for the whole community. The first big event of the year is the First Responders Dinner thanking all first responders in the county for their dedication to helping and saving lives. The Chamber provides a First Impressions Grant to help community organizations improve the beauty of the county or towns. They have also helped the Town of Ackerman promote the new Mississippi Blues Trail Marker for Texas Johnny Brown. The marker is located at the Bruce Burney Walking Track in downtown Ackerman. The Chamber is working with the Town of Weir with an unveiling of a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker in Weir soon. Another event coming soon is Movie Night to be held at the Choctaw County Community Center. The Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce is governed by a board that is made up of business owners and/or ties from French Camp, Weir and Ackerman. They form a budget and plan activities for the year. The Chamber board must gain approval from the Choctaw County Economic Development Foundation before starting any activities. The CCEDF is a public nonprofit organization funded by private sources that helps with economic development of Choctaw County. The board helps seek or market our location to prospects, according to Scott. He said one source of that marketing is the Foundation and Chamber’s website, www.choctawcountyms.com. This website was recently updated with current information and becoming more user friendly. “It has everything a potential prospect would need,” said Scott. He added that the website targets the biomass and renewable energy industries. The website also provides valuable community information and Chamber member information. The Foundation also is in charge of rentals for the Choctaw County Community Center and provides help to small business owners before the opening of a business. They also sponsor the Annual Meeting in April where board members are elected and other economic development business is discussed with the whole membership. The Chamber and Foundation office is located at the JP Coleman building in downtown Ackerman which will soon be remodeled. When the remodel is complete, it will offer a new community meeting room and an updated office. The Foundation is currently working with the Turning the Tide on Poverty group to help start a farmer’s market and are exploring the idea of starting a timber buying co-op to establish a supply chain to help larger prospects. Scott said future possible projects for the Foundation include working with the Town of Weir to rehab the former bank to create a Made in Mississippi shop. To learn more about the Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce visit www.choctawcountyms.com.