Business group hears from Saratoga chamber CEO

Visitor at forum explains opportunities

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MANCHESTER — A chamber of commerce leader from nearby upstate New York visited the Manchester community on Monday to give insight to what a successful business association looks like.

The Manchester Business Association hosted Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, on Feb. 6 at the Manchester Community Library.

A marketing plan with costs was to have been presented at the meeting, but instead, MBA president Paul Carroccio said the group will file for charitable status, develop a marketing initiative, raise funds and then take inventory of the community's assets — its events and initiatives already planned for the next two years.

"We're still driving at marketing the visitor traffic to Manchester — that's our sole purpose, we're not talking about any other town in the county," Carroccio said.

Over the course of three weeks, Carroccio noticed an increase in vacant properties around Manchester.

"We've also zeroed in on some of the challenges that are hard to argue," he said. "I drove around this morning at 8:30 a.m. and I counted 40 [vacant stores]. Just visual signs that say 'For lease.' Last week it was 36. Just to give you an idea, three weeks ago it was 32. We just want to make sure people know that."

Shimkus — sporting a New England Patriots jersey because of his Massachusetts roots — opened with his journey to becoming president. He served on school boards and in the Glens Falls, N.Y. chamber among other similar positions.

Shimkus has roughly 31 years of experience in the field — 22 of them at the chamber.

He described eight different organizations and annual events that are a product of the chamber. They included the Veterans Business Council, Saratoga County's Tourism Promotion Agency, a neighborhood watch program, Startup Saratoga, Leadership Saratoga, Healthy Saratoga, Saratoga Giant Pumpkinfest and the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail.

Shimkus stated that his favorite role as president of the chamber is "to convene the best and brightest in our community to get things done."

In addition to the chamber, there is the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, Saratoga Springs City Center, Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, a downtown business association and a special assessment district. With shared board members, Shimkus said ideas rarely overlap. They operate under a clear division of responsibilities and a mixture of private and public funds to maximize impact.

The Saratoga chamber has about 2,100 members and 10 paid staff members, Shimkus said.

"I think one of the things that business organizations have to do to be more than just local is to make sure you're actually doing something," Shimkus said. "It could be direct, or it could be indirect. Neighborhood watch is pretty direct, but these other ones aren't."

He referred to a healthy living event that targeted the YMCA in Clifton Park, N.Y., a nearby community. The YMCA isn't a part of the Saratoga chamber, but it had a shared theme.

He also mentioned that their digital marketing has grown immensely over the years.

"We know that Saratoga County is much larger than Bennington County," Carroccio said. "We know they have a race track and we don't. We also know they have New York and we have Vermont."

Reach Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at By Makayla McGeeney

mmcgeeney

@benningtonbanner.com

MANCHESTER — A chamber of commerce leader from nearby upstate New York visited the Manchester community on Monday to give insight to what a successful business association looks like.

The Manchester Business Association hosted Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, on Feb. 6 at the Manchester Community Library.

A marketing plan with costs was to have been presented at the meeting, but instead, MBA president Paul Carroccio said the group will file for charitable status, develop a marketing initiative, raise funds and then take inventory of the community's assets — its events and initiatives already planned for the next two years.

"We're still driving at marketing the visitor traffic to Manchester — that's our sole purpose, we're not talking about any other town in the county," Carroccio said.

Over the course of three weeks, Carroccio noticed an increase in vacant properties around Manchester.

"We've also zeroed in on some of the challenges that are hard to argue," he said. "I drove around this morning at 8:30 a.m. and I counted 40 [vacant stores]. Just visual signs that say 'For lease.' Last week it was 36. Just to give you an idea, three weeks ago it was 32. We just want to make sure people know that."

Shimkus — sporting a New England Patriots jersey because of his Massachusetts roots — opened with his journey to becoming president. He served on school boards and in the Glens Falls, N.Y. chamber among other similar positions.

Shimkus has roughly 31 years of experience in the field — 22 of them at the chamber.

He described eight different organizations and annual events that are a product of the chamber. They included the Veterans Business Council, Saratoga County's Tourism Promotion Agency, a neighborhood watch program, Startup Saratoga, Leadership Saratoga, Healthy Saratoga, Saratoga Giant Pumpkinfest and the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail.

Shimkus stated that his favorite role as president of the chamber is "to convene the best and brightest in our community to get things done."

In addition to the chamber, there is the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, Saratoga Springs City Center, Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, a downtown business association and a special assessment district. With shared board members, Shimkus said ideas rarely overlap. They operate under a clear division of responsibilities and a mixture of private and public funds to maximize impact.

The Saratoga chamber has about 2,100 members and 10 paid staff members, Shimkus said.

"I think one of the things that business organizations have to do to be more than just local is to make sure you're actually doing something," Shimkus said. "It could be direct, or it could be indirect. Neighborhood watch is pretty direct, but these other ones aren't."

He referred to a healthy living event that targeted the YMCA in Clifton Park, N.Y., a nearby community. The YMCA isn't a part of the Saratoga chamber, but it had a shared theme.

He also mentioned that their digital marketing has grown immensely over the years.

"We know that Saratoga County is much larger than Bennington County," Carroccio said. "We know they have a race track and we don't. We also know they have New York and we have Vermont."

Reach Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.

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