The Coastal Alabama Business Chamber will soon have two locations to better serve its members thanks to a partnership between the City of Orange Beach, Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and The Wharf.
Greg Alexander took the position as Chamber President and CEO 18 months ago and said the need for expansion was obvious.
“Coming in from the outside with no preconceived notions or biases about the area and cities, it became evident to me pretty quickly that we have two distinct cities now,” he said.
According to Alexander, 65 percent of the chamber members are in Gulf Shores and only 35 percent in Orange Beach.
“We want to continue to grow in both cities but there are more businesses in Orange Beach we can bring on as chamber members. We looked at how best to do that. Then we started speaking with existing chamber members, non-chamber business owners, mom and pops and got the distinct feeling they would like to see and more strongly support if they had their chamber in their community,” Alexander said.
“The chamber has remained in the same location with the same dynamic for 25 years with our business model remaining relatively the same. The dynamic of the cities, our local economy and business have continued to grow at a huge rate over the last decade. We have continued to try to operate and support all these businesses in coastal Alabama with the same model. When you look at the numbers, demographics, the number of businesses per capita that we have as chamber members from Gulf Shores versus Orange Beach there is more growth potential in Orange Beach,” Alexander said.
Alexander said he approached Jerry Johnson, Orange Beach Councilman who also represents the City of Orange Beach as an Ex-Officio Member of the chamber, about a “crazy idea” he had to put a physical presence in Orange Beach. Not a satellite office but a full-time office.
Johnson said, “We talked and I said let’s see if your board will approve it and then we can take it to the mayor and see if the city of Orange Beach will do it. The chamber board was very excited and said they would support it. We met with Mayor Tony Kennon and City Manager Ken Grimes and laid it out. Tony said yes and that he had been trying to do this for a long time. He was very supportive.”
During the Jan. 21 Orange Beach City Council meeting, the council and Mayor Tony Kennon voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions.
The first resolution authorized the execution of a performance contract with the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and appropriating funds to support an office in Orange Beach. The city will provide office space suitable for the establishment of a Chamber Office and Visitor Center in Orange Beach for a two-year period. The city will contract directly with The Wharf for the office property, and the city will be solely responsible for any lease payments pursuant to the city’s agreement with the Wharf.
The city will coordinate and perform the build-out of the office space in an amount not to exceed $35,000. It will also reimburse the Business Chamber for utilities, internet communications, telephone and the like in an amount not to exceed $1,000 per month.
“The city’s commitment to build out the office and pay the rent is for a limited time and Greg agrees that we want it to be self-sustaining within 24 months,” Johnson said.
The second resolution authorizing the execution of a license agreement with Wharf Retail Properties, L.L.C., to provide office space for the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber.
“We are putting it on the main street at The Wharf and the Wharf businesses have not had a lot of attention for a long time. Greg and the staff want to give them some five-star treatment and get to know them on a first name basis and try to help them not only learn how to do business better but to sustain their business. They can be there to help The Wharf to promote the events that are there but also the businesses. The location was critical that’s why the partnership to get this done is between the city, the chamber and The Wharf,” Johnson said.
“We want to increase our participation and influence with events in Orange Beach. In Gulf Shores we have the Shrimp Festival and we work closely with the city on the Zydeco Festival. A lot of that is because our physical presence is here in Gulf Shores. We want to continue that support but grow our participation with events at The Wharf, Canal Road and in Orange Beach,” Alexander said.