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A View to the Future

Chamber's list of goals to be shaken not stirred; upcoming gala to have James Bond theme.

Miss Moneypenny would feel right at home at the upcoming Annual Winter Gala and Silent Auction of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce this Saturday night. What could be more appropriate than having a name like that when Charles Collum, chairman and CEO, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company, officially takes the helm as the organization's 2005 Chairman of the Board?

This year's black-tie event at The Birchmere in Alexandria will have a James Bond theme. But, there is nothing clandestine about the goals of the incoming chairman. During an interview at chamber offices this past Monday he elaborated on his ideas along with Kenneth Moore, chamber president and CEO.

"I have actually created a Top 10 issues list I would like to concentrate on during 2005. These grew out of a director's retreat we had in November. I hope to make them my focus for this year," Collum said.

"Although they are not necessarily in any priority order, I do see a sort of a tie for first place. They would be an emphasis on our role in furthering advocacy issues in the political arena and highlighting increased development of the Small Business Development Center," he said.

Some of the items high on the Chamber's advocacy list for 2005 when it came to the state legislature included the following:

* Encouraging the legislature to support a constitutional amendment allowing the Governor to serve two consecutive terms

* Supporting the continued use and expansion of traffic light cameras at intersections

* Opposing the 50 cents tax on movie theater tickets

* Providing more money for transportation needs

"WE HAVE NOT focused on just what types of transportation needs should receive additional funds. But, we want to make it easier for people to commute to and from their homes and work places," Collum said.

"We've been in favor of teleworking for some time. We think it should be integrated into the transportation formula, not just more money for roads. It should also look at better mass transit," Moore said.

"We also need to get more money for Small Business Development Centers. We want the $1 million they [the General assembly] took out of the budget to fund these centers put back in. Alexandria Chamber was getting $25,000 for our center before it was cut. Now we have to find other funding sources," Collum said.

Other subject matters on the Top 10 list were:

* Increasing communications among members and with the community at large. "One of the things many members join the chamber for is networking. We have developed both morning and afternoon events of interest to our membership. We are also partnering with the Mount Vernon/Lee, Arlington, and Central Fairfax chambers to develop joint programs of interests to a wide audience," Collum said.

* Increasing membership. "We'd like to have 1,000 members by the end of 2005," Collum said. "We're now at 900. We are in the process of initiating a new membership growth program that we will kick off in March," Moore added. "We are going to be reaching out more to businesses throughout the community," Collum said.

* Outdoor dining in Alexandria. "This was done on an experimental basis this past fall. We'd like to see it made permanent. It's good for business, restaurants and shoppers," Collum said.

* Increasing interaction with the PTO and their personnel. "Last year we worked with them on a variety of projects and we intend to continue that this year," Collum said.

A MAJOR PART of this interaction will be to make Alexandria more user friendly to the newly arriving PTO employees. "We have introduced our new "alexandriamap.com," Moore said. "This will list all restaurants, entertainment, and retail establishments within a mile of the PTO headquarters," he said.

"We recently inaugurated the free DASH lunch shuttle. And, we intend to increase communications with their personnel as well as work with them on a host of other issues," Collum said.

On Feb. 23 a "Taste of Alexandria" luncheon is planned at the PTO atrium. This will feature a number of Alexandria restaurants to introduce PTO staff to the city's host of eateries, according to Collum and Moore.

* The redevelopment of Landmark Mall and the surrounding area. "I think there is a real opportunity here to really revitalize the West End," Moore said. "We don't have a specific platform on this revitalization effort at the moment. But, we are watching developments very closely," Collum said.

* The development of additional open space along the waterfront. "At some point in this process the chamber will have to weigh-in on this subject as to what is feasible and what might not be feasible. And, we will weigh-in," Collum said. "This applies very much to the Old Dominion Boat Club. I would hope it would not come down to the use of eminent domain," he said.

* A continued commitment to the "Leadership Alexandria" program inaugurated during the chairmanship of Hugh Battle. "We want to continue to concentrate on developing community leaders," Collum said. "Hopefully, this program also makes the participants better employees of the firms they work for," Moore said.

FINALLY, as the signature of his Top 10 list, Collum will be presiding over preparations for the chamber's 100th anniversary celebration, having been founded in 1906. "We have a unique opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the last 100 years," Collum said.

"I have appointed Lynn Wyvill as chair of this committee. We have a lot of people in this city with a real feel for history. I believe that these types of celebrations are for looking back at what has been accomplished," he said.

"We want to highlight what contributions the chamber has made over the past century to the development and progress of Alexandria," he said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm really looking forward to the many possibilities as well as the year ahead," Collum said.