The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce’s motto is “Advancing the Regional Agenda through Business Leadership,” and it could not have found a better leader and voice than its president, William E. “Bill” Purcell. With a strong background in urban studies and an MBA, Purcell has great enthusiasm and passion for chambers of commerce and how members come together voluntarily to share the best business practices and improve the quality of life.
“I’m proud to put people to work and see myself as a social worker in disguise.”
Chambers of commerce have a long history dating from the first one established in Marseille, France in 1599.
“The chamber movement is as old as the country is young, and represents the very best of the voluntary business associations that have helped to shape the free enterprise system we enjoy today,” Purcell says.
He came to the Greater Valley in 2000 after 18 years at the chamber of commerce in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. Marking its 50th anniversary, the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce represents the Naugatuck River Valley of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton and the surrounding area. It has 500 members who represent a cross section of the area’s businesses – manufacturing, retail, service and biotech. These range from home-based sole proprietors to large corporations with multiple branches, including BIC, Thule USA, PerkinElmer, Sikorsky, the DiMatteo Group and David M. Grant Caterers.
The valley, situated among three urban areas – Bridgeport, Waterbury and New Haven – has experienced considerable growth along Route 8.
“Thanks to forward-thinking folks, the highway has become a leading economic center in the state with great office space and modern manufacturing,” Purcell says. “There’s lots of new construction, lots of office space and new construction of rental apartments, especially in the Canal Street (Shelton) revitalization. The valley has become a destination of choice for residents. People are discovering its beauty.”
Purcell sees a parallel between the triangulation of the valley and the chamber’s three constituents. “Chamber professionals occupy a unique space at the intersection of business, government and the general community. We are the voice of business at all levels and support our community.”
Networking is key. “While the adage for the real estate industry is ‘Location, location, location,’ effective chambers are expert at helping their members to make connections through a variety of networking events.”
The chamber has a Health Care Council, Technology Council, Hotel Council and hosts two major business expos each year, including the “Come Together for Business Expo,” which was held recently in partnership with the Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull chambers of commerce.
“Helping to make our member businesses stronger through educational seminars and the sharing of best practices is a core function of our chamber,” says Purcell about its professional development seminars. “Our ‘Success in 60’ seminar series, our OSHA training seminars and our Greater Valley human resources forums are just three examples where best practices are shared.”
As a voice of business at local, state and federal levels of government, the chamber is active in legislative affairs. “This past year, the chamber hosted a manufacturing roundtable with our U.S. senator, a forum on trade with Canada with our congressman and a discussion with our state legislative leaders on issues impacting Connecticut’s competitive position in attracting and retaining business.”
Above all, the chamber is an advocate for business and startups.
“I am very proud of our Women In Networking Group (WIN) and our Young Emerging Professionals (YEP) for the impact they are making as philanthropists.” WIN established an entrepreneurial grant program for women-owned businesses in the region that has awarded more than $40,000 in $1,500 to $2,000 grants. YEP members are 20- to 30-year-olds who have also become philanthropists. For the past five years, YEP has hosted a fund-raising event to support The Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby.
Purcell, a Woodbridge resident, serves on the steering committee of CT20x17, an initiative to make Connecticut one of top 20 states to do business in by 2017.
“The goal is to increase desirability for businesses to come to Connecticut. I’m proud to work with colleagues across the state in a nonpartisan way to move us forward as a state and as a nation. Elected officials may come and go, but the chamber will always be there.”
The Greater Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce is at 10 Progress Drive in Shelton. For more, call 203-925-4981 or visit greatervalleychamber.com.