Chamber wins national award

The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce was recently named as one of the best Chambers in the country by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, receiving a second-place award for excellence.

The ACCE hands out awards for excellence in four dues categories each year. Karen McGrath, executive director of the local chamber, said the Chamber was honored, calling the ACCE bestowment the “Academy Award” of the industry.

“We strive for excellence every day,” McGrath said. “To be coming from this little corner and to be recognized by our peers on a national level for our efforts is quite an honor.”

Chamber Membership Director Carrie Subity received a second-place award in the ACCE national sales contest and Pamela McComas, the Chamber’s publications manager, received an ACCE award for communications excellence for her work on the 2005 Quiet Resorts Visitors Guide.

McComas has worked on the visitors guide for five years, doing everything from selling advertisements to paginating the annual publication.

“It’s a great achievement to be recognized in your field by a national organization,” she said, adding about the Chamber’s overall award: “It’s a great honor. It’s amazing to go out there and see all the other Chambers we were up against.”

According to the ACCE Web site, the annual Award for Excellence is handed out based on a Chamber’s “financial performance, member programs, internal operations and organizational mission.” To qualify for the award, Chambers must exceed national averages for member retention, gain in new member dollars and new members.

Subity registered 130 new members in the 2005 fiscal year, qualifying the Chamber for the contest, and exceeding expectations for an employee with only a year-and-a-half of experience in the industry, McGrath said.

“Getting more and more new members is an objective of our Chamber,” Subity said. “I’m glad to see I’m making an impact. A lot of it is growth in our area. They want to become involved in the community.”

McGrath said the Chamber currently has about 835 members and keeps a member retention rate of about 90 percent. The national average consistently stays at about 82 or 83 percent, she said.

McGrath also mentioned business seminars for home-based businesses, a credit-card processing program and tourism events, such as the annual Taste of Coastal Delaware, as part of the reason the Chamber impressed judges in the member programs portion.

The Chamber was also recently praised locally for its efforts in securing a lower rate for area businesses involved in an electric co-op Chamber officials organized earlier this year. Although that cooperative was not organized until the 2006 fiscal year, it caught the attention of some at the awards ceremony in Cleveland.

“As part of the interview process, (Subity) mentioned that,” McGrath said, “and there were some people on the review committee who knew about it.”

Because that co-op was organized in the 2006 fiscal year, though, it was not used to judge the organization’s 2005 performance. Indeed, it doesn’t seem that much help was needed.

“I am so proud that the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce finished first-runner-up for the ACCE Award for Excellence,” Tom Neville, president of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, said in the Chamber’s press release. “Our staff competed with chambers from big cities to small towns nationwide to win this award. I would like to thank all or our staff, board of directors, volunteers and members for their hard work in making this such an outstanding organization.”