Work hard enough, the saying goes, and pretty soon you'll get lucky.
By that measure, Columbia County's luck is overflowing thanks to the hard work of the Chamber of Commerce and its boatload of volunteers.
Those volunteers will really begin to shine this week as they kick off the chamber's second membership drive. They're working toward building a Columbia County Chamber capable of standing on its own as the voice of the county's business community.
Historically, the growth of Columbia County's Chamber of Commerce has been important as a confidence-builder for a county long considered the "bedroom" community for Augusta. But as Columbia County has grown, the parallel growth of its chamber represents a coming-of-age process.
Shortly after its incorporation as a distinct entity, linked to but increasingly separate from Augusta's Chamber, Columbia County in 2003 held its first-ever membership drive. At that time, The News-Times ceremonially signed on as the drive's first new member.
As we noted at the time, it may have come as a surprise to many that the paper wasn't already a member, but the reason was simple: No one had ever asked us to join. That changed when the chamber started moving toward autonomy, and with it found a hunger for growth.
Interim chamber director Andy Kingery started that process, and the mantle has since been taken by Executive Director Gordon Renshaw, who pens a guest column for today's News-Times.
Renshaw's tenure has been noteworthy not just for the chamber's growth, but for where it has grown.
Until the chamber's new era, membership had typically come from the busier Martinez-Evans area, with barely an afterthought for Columbia County's two cities. Since last year's drive, however, Harlem and Grovetown have stepped in to play vital roles in the chamber's growth.
That's no accident; it's the tangible payoff of a pledge from Chamber leaders for the organization to act as advocate for all of the business community. The cities' mayors have responded by working to sign up members a higher percentage of their business community than the national average. That effort provides a fitting challenge to the volunteers preparing for the start of the chamber's drive this week.
Renshaw and his corps of volunteers do a fine job of selling businesses on the importance of chamber membership, so we'll leave the sales pitch to them. But from a community perspective, we know the chamber must grow and thrive it is to provide a strong, consistent, accountable voice for commerce.
As Columbia County continues to grow, it can't subsist on luck alone. The hard work of the chamber will ensure continued success.
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