In what has now become an annual tradition, members of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce traveled to the nation’s capital last week for the 2013 Washington Perspective, a two-day trip which allowed members of the local community to hear from — and be heard by — state and national leaders.
This year, Chamber members Sherri Smith with Capstone Bank, Dickie Smith with BB&T, Jeff Shipp with Star Telephone, Sherrill Allen with First Citizens Bank, Susan Cook with Butler and Faircloth Real Estate, Michael Chestnutt (2013 Chamber President) with Black, Chestnutt, and Johnson CPA, Larry McPhail with Ford of Clinton, Greg Thornton with WG Thornton and Associates, and Janna Bass, executive director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce attended the event, each paying their own way but traveling together to Washington, D.C. on a van provided by Ford of Clinton.
Once at the capitol, after an approximate five hour journey, the group kept a busy, action-packed schedule.
“We met with senators and representatives and got to talk about what’s going on in Sampson County,” explained Bass of the general event, noting that “it offers a way for us to build those relationships in Washington and to serve as a voice for our community, voicing our concerns.”
At the start of their first day, Monday, Sept. 9, they had the opportunity to hear presentations from NC-based clothing designer Alexander Julian, the president and CEO of MCNC Joe Freddoso, the director of the NC Film Office Aaron Syrett, and the editor of “Our State” magazine Elizabeth Hudson.
Chamber members also spent some of the day attending a variety of workshops such as “Key Strategies for Accessing Government Contracts,” “Workforce Development and the Skills Gap,” “Green Light to Growth: Driving Job Creation through Increased Access to Capital.”
That afternoon the group attended a briefing by U.S. representatives featuring Mike McIntyre, G.K. Butterfield, Renee Elmers, Richard Hudson, David Price, George Holding, Robert Pittenger, Howard Coble, and Mark Meadows. The briefing was then followed by a question-and-answer session.
“The Sampson Perspective that we held a few weeks ago really helped us know what the concerns of our community are and what questions we needed to take to Washington,” noted Bass.
The group also heard from the North Carolina Executive Leadership Panel which featured John W. Palamour, Ph.D., the executive vice president of Cree, Inc.; David Simmons, chairman and CEO of PPD; and Jennifer L. Weber, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Duke Energy.
Later Monday evening before attending a networking mixer, Chamber members heard from Secretary Sharon Decker with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the group gathered with many others at the Capitol Visitors Center in the congressional auditorium, kicking off their second day with presentations from a variety of speakers including General James Amos, commandant of the United States Marine Corps; Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Department of Transportation; U.S. Sen. Richard Burr,;Roy Williams, UNC Men’s Basketball Coach; Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News; and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
One of the highlights of the second day for the Chamber members was the opportunity to visit Burr’s office and speak with him privately.
“Usually when you’re meeting senators and representatives there’s a lot of other people around, networking and mingling, so it was nice to meet with him privately,” said Bass. “We could only stay about 20 minutes, but when you get those opportunities, you want to take full advantage of them.”
“We are committed to continuing and broadening our Chamber’s strong emphasis on developing representation for our members and business community in Washington as well as at home. During our time together with our representatives, such as our early morning meeting with Sen. Burr, we tried to communicate some of our thoughts and outlooks on the economic climate,” explained Allen, noting that “we discussed challenges with our representatives that we face today in a tough economic and regulatory environment that affects all of us, more especially those of us in banking who have to navigate more complex regulations as we strive to effectively serve the business community. I am convinced that our efforts are in the best interest to collectively develop a voice for the business community that will help us to prosper.”
“This was a great opportunity to talk with our Representation, see what they feel is going on with their local citizens, and see firsthand what is happening on subjects which are of national interest. Some of the discussion by North Carolina business representatives and national political figures was both good and interesting to hear,” Dickie Smith added , stressing that “our opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns was also a positive aspect of being able to attend this conference.”
Although the group’s busy schedule left little time for sightseeing, Bass shared that they did have the chance to do one fun, touristy activity on their trip as well as enjoy one special meal. “We visited the Library of Congress and got to eat in the Senate dining room which was neat.”
Simply being at the capitol for those two days, surrounded by national history and numerous political movers and shakers, left a lasting impression on the group.
“Sometimes we are so absorbed in our day-to-day lives that we forget how fortunate we are to live where we do — the USA,” said Sherri Smith. “But one glance of the Capitol building makes you remember and be thankful.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.