Ever forward in Greenwich

The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce: It’s not your grandpa’s chamber anymore.

“Our chamber has reinvented itself beyond the boys’ club,” Executive Director Marcia O’Kane says of the 542-member organization. “In the last three years, we’ve added 100 members per year.”

But the evidence of growth isn’t merely statistical. You can see it in the “After Six” chamber networking events that draw 120 people to the Delamar Greenwich Harbor. You can see it in the increased area visibility for members like Paul Lowe, a medical doctor turned school admissions and career adviser based in Woodbridge, Conn., and PID, hardwood flooring specialists just down the street from the chamber on Putnam Avenue.

You can see it in the members who approach O’Kane with excitement.

“I’m getting good vibes from people who say, ‘This isn’t the old chamber I remember.’”

That may be in large part because of the vibrant woman who has led the organization since Sept. 12, 2011. O’Kane’s also an MBA with Wall Street cred.

“I try to use all the skills I’ve acquired,” she says. “I’m happy to be that conduit to get new business.”

One of the ways she and the chamber do this is through outreach to sister chambers like the Greater Norwalk, Darien and Stamford chambers of commerce. The fab four recently held their “Quad Chamber Expo & Business Networking Tabletop Expo” at the University of Connecticut at Stamford.

Similarly, the sleekly handsome Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Resource Guide is geared not only to members but visitors looking to avail themselves of the 50-square-mile town’s many attractions – from Rodeo Drive-style shopping and dining on Greenwich Avenue to Old Masters exhibits at the Bruce Museum to sailing, teeing off at any of eight country clubs or stomping the divots at the Greenwich Polo Club.

“Getting listed in the chamber guide is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” O’Kane says.

Ever mindful of the chamber’s more than $300,000 operating budget, she conducted a brief survey and discovered that 70 percent of the members – which include businesses and individuals from Westchester and Rockland counties and as far away as Long Island – wanted an e-book guide. This keeps down the cost of printing. The chamber also recycles its name badges, one of the ways in which it is both economical and environmental.

With three part-time staffers, O’Kane says she knows she’s going to have to grow the staff. But she wants to do it smartly.

In some ways, though, this modern chamber adheres to tradition. From Dec. 1 through 5, chamber judges will once again be going around to the various merchants to select the best holiday storefront and window. The winner will be announced Dec. 10 at a holiday party at the Bruce Museum that will feature food from the Little Pub in Cos Cob, wine from the Cos Cob Liquor Store, the pianistic stylings of John Goldschmid, shopping in the museum store and a grand raffle prize courtesy of Geiger’s.

So some things never change. And yet, O’Kane says, “we have to be aware of how the world is changing.”

The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce is at 45 E. Putnam Ave. For more, call 203 869-3500 or visit greenwichchamber.com.

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