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Chamber's Focus: Members First

Louis Matrone takes helm as chairman of the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce.

As a Chamber of Commerce member for the past six years, one thing Louis Matrone has noticed is the non-profit organization’s "unwavering focus on membership."

Matrone officially started off his 2004 term by speaking to 300 of the nearly 1,300 chamber members present at the 2004 Annual Meeting, which was held at the Belmont Country Club on Jan. 23. "Not one decision is made without considering the impact on members," he said.

Matrone plans to focus on membership and public policy this year as did 2003 chairman Robert Sevila last year. "We have seen our membership grow, our retention increase, new programs added, our events flourish and volunteerism increase," he said. "Bob has truly raised the expectations of those who follow in his footsteps."

During his term, Sevila worked on membership growth. The chamber "needs a broad base of membership to represent the business community," he said. He worked on public policy to get the voice of business heard by elected officials and candidates and on providing a variety of forums for business leaders and staff to meet, including 12 monthly mixers, 12 business showcase breakfasts, two golf tournaments and the annual business expo.

"Not one decision is made without considering the impact to our collective membership," Matrone said.

THIS YEAR, MATRONE will direct the chamber’s goals to create a vertical focus for membership, tailoring events and programs to the needs of various types of businesses from the home-based to the large corporation. He is considering offering quarterly chief executive officer (CEO) forums for large companies and starting a mentoring program that would assign new and prospective members with existing members.

"We’re trying to create something that will help businesses relate better to what we do," Matrone said. "At days end, we strive to have each and every member feel the services they receive relate specifically to their business."

At the public policy level, Matrone plans to continue working with local government and business associations. He wants to help identify ways to improve existing relationships with government leaders, businesses and citizens and to identify the issues chamber members want to support, such as affordable housing, transportation, education and healthcare.

As his third goal, Matrone wants to bring together representatives from the government, business sector and community to create a Loudoun technology team and to start developing a countywide technology plan. "I’m not of the mindset that we’ll have a solution this year," he said. "My goal is to get us to the table … talking about the issues."

At the three-hour luncheon meeting, Sevila and Matrone handed out several awards including:

* The Dick Brennan-Chairman’s Award presented each year to the chamber’s top volunteer, Joanne Roehling of the Beacon Accounting Group.

* Two Volunteer Leadership Awards, Art Gose of 1st Tee Golf Outings, LLC, and Mark Stavish of Evergreen Partners, LLC and past chairman in 2002.

* The Honorary Board Member, Merv Forney of Business Interchange Group and past chairman for 2000 and for 2001.

"It’s been a great year. It’s you, the members of the chamber, that made it that way for me," said Randy Collins, chamber president, as he reflected on the chamber’s 35th anniversary. "We’ve been serving the business community for a long time. … We have been able to survive only through the investment of members."

KEYNOTE SPEAKER Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, explained the non-profit organization’s plans to open a biomedical research campus in Loudoun by 2006 three years after construction began last year. The campus will be designed to fit into the landscape of Janelia Farm and will include flexible and adaptable research space for teams of physicists, computer scientists, engineers, biologists and other scientists.

The campus’s location in Loudoun fits with the county’s goals of establishing a diversified and sustainable economy that includes the biotechnology and life sciences sectors and providing high tech jobs and job training programs and educational opportunities in science, Cech said. HHMI has already committed $1 million a year for science education, he said.