GWBA begins year under new leadership

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By David Meade

The Greater Williamston Business Association kicked off the new year under the leadership of a new president. Newly installed president Chris Trotter, of Central Vac and Twice the Ice, presented several ideas to members in a meeting held at the Smokin’ Pig restaurant on Monday. Approximately 30 area business leaders and representatives of the town, EMS and police department attended the meeting.

Trotter recommended the organization purchase static-cling window decals for members which will help the public identify them.

He also suggested a marketing program in The Journal promoting local businesses and shopping local and possibly doing a GWBA member coupon book.

Acting on a motion by Dr. Mack Durham with a second from Mike Simpson, the group unanimously approved the door sticker idea.

Trotter also presented information on a membership drive for the GWBA now through March. The drive will include an incentive program for members who recruit or encourage other business to join.

Acting on a motion by David Meares with a second by Paulette Kirkpatrick, the members unanimously approved the drive and incentives.

Newly elected mayor Mack Durham was the featured speaker.

Mayor Durham said that he was excited for the future of the GWBA and that the town also wants to be a part of that.

Durham said that the town has a purchasing policy preference for local businesses and he believes the town can become bigger by supporting a buy local program.

“Everybody wants to grow our community,” he said. “The question is how to accomplish that?”

Durham said one way is to have more activity in town such as festivals and events, and “to invite people in and to come visit.”

He said he also wants to get feedback from local businesses, because festivals are sometimes seen as bad for some businesses.

“We want to be a plus for your business,” Durham said.

He also said that to freshen-up and clean-up and promote more community pride in the business community will help increase local traffic. One way is through facade improvements.

Also the hospitality tax on prepared foods can be helpful in developing tourism and events, he said.

Durham said the Williamston, Pelzer and West Pelzer area is a gateway from one county to the other and that could be a positive.

He mentioned developing the Saluda River Corridor for kayaking and recreation and the impact of other facilities such as the Charleston port and an upstate rail port that have “major regional impacts.”

He said the theme he is promoting is “A great place to live and raise a family.”

He introduced the new Chief of Police, Tony Taylor.

Taylor said his department “is being proactive and a lot friendlier. I tell our officers to treat people like you want to be treated,” he said. “We want to engage the public, not just bad people, but everyone.”

One way he is doing this is walking and talking with people in the community.

Taylor said the department wants to be a bridge to connect people to resources to resolve an issue. He said they also want to communicate with the business community.

“The police are ambassadors,” he said. Chief Taylor offered his personal cell phone number to the business leaders telling them they can call anytime. His number is 864-905-3014.

Taylor said the department went through a re-interview, re-hire process.

“We do have some good people there,” he said, citing officer Melissa Simmons, who Taylor said had contact with 66 local people just on Monday.

Captain Kevin Marsee who is over Administration and Captain Jay Grubbs who is over operations, were also introduced.

Marsee, who worked with the City of Anderson said he is glad to be working in Williamston.

As part of the community policing focus of the department, Capt. Grubbs explained that officers are being assigned to each of the town’s four wards. “We want to get to know the people and want to be a member of the community,” he said.

GWBA Vice-president of membership Robin Tucker said the organization currently has 33-34 members and is growing. Several new businesses have opened recently in the area and have become members.

Paulette Kirkpatrick (Upstate Federal Credit), John Thomason (Citizens Insuarance) and Mike Simpson ( Ace Hardware) were appointed to a committee to work with Dr. Marion Williams (Eye Care Center) on the annual GWBA Easter Egg Hunt event.

The February meeting of the GWBA will be at the House of Pizza. The organization meets on the third Tuesday of each month.