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New chamber of commerce in Fort Smith chooses leaders
Goal now is to expand membership

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, April 21, 2012

A new chamber of commerce in Fort Smith has completed its organizational stage, and is now aiming to gather more members.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dana Jackson, the co-owner of Pelican Rapids Inn, is the first president of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce 2012. - NNSL file photo

The new group officially called the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce 2012 held its first annual general meeting on April 18.

The meeting, which attracted 18 businesspeople, included the election of a three-person executive and three directors, all chosen by acclamation.

Dana Jackson, the co-owner of Pelican Rapids Inn, is the president of the chamber. She had been interim president while the chamber was being organized.

Marie Swanson, one of the owners of TDC Contracting, is vice-president and Border Cabs co-owner Patty Haaima is secretary-treasurer.

There are also three directors independent contractor Dave Beamish, Mercury Signs owner Don Harney and training consultant Al Dumont.

All have been elected to serve for a year.

The first goal of the new organization is to increase the number of members.

"We're going to focus primarily on membership for the time being and why it's important to become a member of the chamber," Jackson said, noting the higher the number of members, the more political backing the chamber will have to talk about issues.

As of late last week, the new chamber had seven paid-up members.

However, Jackson said that is just the beginning and the target is to attract half of the people holding the 225 business licences in Fort Smith.

The current members of the chamber will promote the new organization at the Fort Smith Trade Show on April 28.

"That will really get the public conversation going on it," Jackson said, noting membership applications will be distributed and the benefits of joining the new chamber will be highlighted.

The former Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce had been inactive for about three years.

The new chamber is a different organization, as evidenced by the year 2012 added to its name, and not a revival of the former chamber.

"We are trying to really focus on the new fresh start of the organization with clean ideas, a new beginning," Jackson explained. "It still says chamber of commerce, but it's 2012. It's something different. It's not the same organization coming back again."

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