Chamber Looking Northward
Patrick Coughlin is making a strong effort to take the lead in building cooperative relationships between business people from one end of the county to the other. Last week, he spoke to the Carthage Rotary Club about his part in the growth of a one-county consciousness.
"We are the Moore County Chamber of Commerce," he said, not just about the Sandhills, but the Foothills and everything in between.
He has visited council members in and around Carthage, Westmoore, High Falls and Robbins. He has taken notice of efforts such as NC STEP, the campaign to bring Fibrowatt to northern Moore County and new development at Little River.
"There is a real excitement for what's going on from Robbins to Little River," Coughlin said. "There are a whole lot of new energies that are unifying the whole county. We are finding we are all sitting around the same table."
With Linda Koontz covering the Foothills from her Carthage office, the Chamber is living up to its new name, Coughlin said.
"You are the first Chamber president that came to my business," said Mark Lemmond, a past president of Rotary with an office in Carthage.
"I am trying to visit every member," Coughlin said. "We held a breakfast meeting in Robbins to introduce ourselves. I think we have visited just about every member in Robbins and the lion's share in Carthage, one-on-one, to introduce ourselves."
Coughlin and Koontz attended a grand opening for "From the Maker's Hand" when it moved to its new location next to the county Democratic headquarters in Carthage.
They toured the building, chatted with the owner, and explored available spaces other businesses might use. Coughlin even took a cue at the antique billiard table to the evident delight of their little girl.
When Bavarian Bratwurst opened its new "tent" -- a covered outdoor section with picnic style tables after the fashion of Oktoberfest in Munich -- Coughlin was there, surrounded by Dirndl-clad Fraus and Frauleins, happily accepting a plate of wurst, but sadly declining a brimming stein. Not while "on duty" he explained.
His commitment to face-to-face contact grew out of his own experiences in business before he went to work as a Chamber executive.
"One reason is, I used to be a member myself, when I had a business in Dubois, Pennsylvania," he said. "I was not happy."
Coughlin operated an advertising business, but he found he just wasn't getting much support from his local Chamber of Commerce. After that Chamber's executive moved on, they offered him the job. Now that he is in North Carolina, Coughlin means to use that early disappointing membership experience to guide his efforts here.
He means to make sure every corner of the county is covered, and links forged North to South, East to West.
"The job of the Chamber is in helping businesses interact," Coughlin said. "There's nobody else to ask, 'What do you need? Education? Transportation? How will BRAC affect you?' BRAC will change everything."
Impending growth at Fort Bragg resulting from Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) worldwide changes mean 20,000 senior officers -- and their families -- will need to find a place to live.
"There simply are not enough contractors over there to handle that influx in a reasonable time," Coughlin said. "You can't wait two or three years to find a place to live, a school for your children."
The numbers of those military families who are likely to be attracted to life in Moore County will affect everybody, Coughlin said.
"This is the single most important thing here in the coming year," he said. "It's not 2007; it's now. What are they going to do? Build temporary quarters at Bragg? This is a wonderful opportunity to attract people to Moore County."
It will mean work for builders, plumbers, graders, electricians. It means sales for storekeepers, new members for churches, new students in the schools. This opportunity is coming just as excitement is building around Robbins, around Carthage and Little River, and just as the whole county is coming together.
Coughlin said he wanted to leave Rotarians with one request: "Let us know how we can help."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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