Chamber programs targeting Belhaven

Published 11:33 am Friday, August 20, 2010

Special to the Daily News

The Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce is working on a number of economic-development initiatives to attract news businesses and help existing ones.
The Great Recession has left its mark on Belhaven’s economy, but the organization is adapting to the circumstances in an effort to improve that economy
Lloyd Ballance, executive director of the chamber, explained the organization’s mission and goals.
“We are not going to have a lot of people passing through Belhaven because we are not on the way to Nags Head, Columbia or Plymouth. So what Belhaven is going to have to end up being is a destination area. People are going to have to come here for a reason. What we have to do is create that reason,” Ballance said.
Two initiatives being planned and scheduled for the future are a speckled-trout tournament and a private-boat race.
The fishing tournament is slated for Sept. 25. It is a joint project of the chamber and the Belhaven Volunteer Fire Department. The tournament includes prizes for the biggest fish caught. There is $50 fee per boat to take part in the tournament.
The exact location and time for the boat race has not been determined. The race will feature hand-made boats powered with two-horsepower engines competing against each other. The event is modeled after “moth-boat” races in Elizabeth City. Privateer Boat Company in Belhaven is helping organize the race.
“These events will involve something that is unique to Belhaven,” Ballance said.
Another project the chamber is promoting is a “beautiful harbor” billboard promoting Belhaven. The billboard, located on U.S. Highway 264, is sustained by sponsorships from businesses. The billboard is sponsored for four months through November. The chamber is seeking businesses to sponsor the billboard for the next eight months at a total fee of $200 dollars a month.
The chamber has received a grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Some of the grant will go toward upgrading the chamber’s website to include more languages and services. The time needed to upgrade the website is estimated at six months.
Ballance wants some of the enhancements to include links to promotional videos about local businesses. The ads involve business owners explaining their hours and the services and/or goods their businesses provide. Some of the businesses involved include Coldwell Banker, Water Street Bed and Breakfast and Fishhooks Café.
The chamber also supports a visitors center at or near the intersection of U.S. Highways 17 and 264 in Washington. It believes the visitors center can help Belhaven in its effort to become a destination for tourists.
The chamber, established in 1952, is composed of 127 businesses. Businesses pay a membership fee based on their number of employees. If a business has less than 10 employees, its pays an annual fee of $150. A business with 11 or more employees pays a $200 fee. An individual and nonprofit group may join by paying a $50 fee.