Milford area businesses have an ally in the Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce, and in Gary Mullin.
The Chamber’s mission, Gary says, “is to promote the interest of business in the area and support the economic development activities of both the town and local organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit.” As the Chamber’s Executive Director, they also want to educate people about things that are happening in the area. Gary’s belief is that it’s all about connecting and supporting the local businesses.
One way the Chamber connects is with their Community Events Calendar, which includes business, non-profit, and social activities. They also offer resources for small business, and can facilitate meetings between businesses who need to know about each other.
The Chamber has a number of networking activities available, with several large activities throughout the year, including their annual meeting. They also sponsor a yearly golf tournament which supports local education and is also a great networking activity. Small businesses that ship goods overseas can also be issued certificates. There are smaller activities include leads groups and several “after hours” meetings as well.
Gary says that the Milford Chamber currently has about 500 members. That’s down a little from two years ago, “as most Chambers have been,” but he believes they are poised for another upswing in membership. To get ready for more members, they’ve added new committees and updated some of their services, including a new business library in the conference room. Members can use the conference room at no charge, and many take advantage of it.
Members who visit the conference room library will find titles on business planning, strategic and financial planning, networking, and others relevant business topics. If a member sees something interesting when they stop by for a networking activity, they’re welcome to return to check out the book.
One of the newest resources is the Senior Care Committee, created so that people in the industry could get to know each other and the services that they provide. This includes people and businesses in all levels of service for seniors. Many times, the members will work together, because they all have different services on multiple levels. If a senior needs a service that one can’t provide, there is another business that can. If a senior’s health deteriorates and they need to go to a different facility with more exclusive care, Chamber members can refer the individual to the facility and the people who can provide the level of care that a patient needs.
The Chamber also has a Business Committee that taps into the membership and finds out what they need. They facilitate groups of like-minded people that need to know each other, or have a common cause.
The Leads groups meet three times a week, generally Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. They try to provide a variety of professions and services without any overlap, such as six bankers in one group. The group will have two bankers, one commercial and one personal. They try to have diversity in each of them so that there is plenty of activity.
These networking groups are typically made up of people who talk to and see a lot of people regularly, who need other things. For instance, a banker may talk to someone moving into the area that is buying a home, but also needs renovations on their property. That banker, through a Chamber activity, can talk to a contractor. The customer may also need a landscaper, a law care company, etc. The group meetings allow members to share those leads amongst themselves.
Gary was a corporate banker by trade, and after 20 years, he transitioned into strategic planning and starting businesses. Since then, he’s started a community bank in New Haven, an executive recruiting firm, a strategic consulting firm, and a specialty lending group which eventually expanded into 40 states. He’s spent the last 15 years consulting and helping small to medium businesses with finance and strategies. These companies typically have between 10 and 100 employees. The companies Gary works with may be outsourcing some of their business needs, but need some help and don’t know where else to turn.
Gary came to the Chamber when the Board felt like the Chamber could do with some retooling as he’s done with businesses. He loves to work with businesses, so now Gary is getting to know about 500 local businesses. He’s been with the Chamber a little over 2 years.
In the next three to five years, Gary sees the Chamber continuing to stress networking and connecting people. They are constantly looking at new ways to connect people who need to know each other. The Senior Care Committee was one way of doing that, as well as Business After Hours. But there are many small business owners who can’t make it after hours, because of child care issues or other obligations, so they’re now looking at “before business hours” and “lunch and learn” activities. They’re always working on new and innovative ways to connect people.
The Chamber has three full-time staff members, with other functions outsourced. The Milford Chamber of Commerce was established in 1954, and has been in their current location for 23 years.