By Kellen M. Quigley
Within the walls of the Lucy Bensley Center and on the village streets, a familiar face with a new title is working with Springville businesses and organizations to help promote the community.
The Springville Area Chamber of Commerce recently named Rich Place as its executive director. Place, a native of West Valley, has a familiarity with the Springville area, which helped him transition smoothly into his role.
“It’s been nice to be knowledgeable about the area and be able to share that knowledge with people that are asking questions,” he said. “I already have relationships with a lot of people that I’ve been working with. That’s already helped in the first few weeks and it’s only going to get better.”
Hired in October, Place said he’s spent the past few weeks figuring out exactly what the chamber does and could be doing while carrying on the daily duties of an executive director.
“Everything from looking for a place to hold an event to looking for an address or phone number for a business they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Although not familiar with the day-to-day operations, Place said he looked at what he had to do at chamber going forward, taking the job at hand and put it in three different phases.
Phase I, Place said, is organizing and perfecting the visible things already established, such as the chamber website, its social media accounts and the office itself. He said while he’s spent time over the past few weeks cleaning the office and updating the chamber’s Facebook and Twitter, most of his time has gone toward redesigning the website.
“Those three things, the office, the website and social media, are things out in the community and things people are seeing,” he said.
Phase II in Place’s plan concerns looking at what programs the chamber already offers and, with the board, deciding which ones they want to keep as is, keep and improve upon or get rid of altogether.
“In the month of November, that’s going to be my primary goal,” he said. “People are always asking what the chamber does for you, and this step is going to be figuring that out so we can attract new members.”
The third phase, which Place said will begin in a few months after the first two phases are done, would be finding new programs and benefits to offer chamber members.
“I’m very excited about that step, but first we have to shore up what we are already doing,” he explained. “Becoming knowledgeable about these programs and benefits like the back of my hand so I can go out and both attract new members and of course serve the members we already have.”
As a graduate of West Valley Central School in 2005 and then St. Bonaventure University in 2009, Place Began his journalism career at the Post-Journal in Jamestown. Since then, he worked with Bradford Publishing Company, holding positions at The Salamanca Press, The Gowanda Press, Ellicottville Times and, most recently, Springville Times.
That degree in communications and experience in newspapers helped make the transition to chamber director easier, Place said.
“I jokingly can’t decide if this is a different field or not,” he explained. “Obviously, it’s a different field than newspapers, but it involves a ton of communication … so I have a lot of the skills needed in that department to help promote the business and market the business.”
Along with hiring Place, the chamber recently named Joe Pillittere as its new president. Place said it’s thrilling to have a new director and president at the same time with the support of a chamber board that is energetic and motivated to promote Springville.
“It’s great to be a part of that team,” he said. “Although I’m the director, there’s an entire team of people that are behind the chamber. … Hold on tight, because it’s going to be an exciting ride going into 2019.”
Looking ahead, Place said transforming the chamber into a consistent and reliable entity for the community to look to and benefit from is a primary goal. One of the ways he said he hopes to do that is bringing back some things the chamber offered previously as well as starting new ones.
From bringing back the chamber newsletter to regularly updating the website with events, news and opportunities, Place said there are a plethora of duties the community expects a chamber to do and he is more than happy to offer and expand on them.
“The whole purpose of the chamber is to serve the business community and subsequently also promote the community as a whole,” he said. “If the chamber can serve as a hub, it creates a great team of business owners and community residents who want to see this area thrive.”
The Springville Area Chamber of Commerce is located at the Lucy Bensley Center, 23 N. Buffalo St. Office hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Place can be contacted at 592-4746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit springvillechamber.com or their Facebook page by searching “Springville Chamber.”