Chamber hires part-time executive director

January 31, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce has a new look in 2013 with new leaders, more networking opportunities and increased dues.

The chamber officially moved away from its previous all-volunteer model in January when it hired Imelda Dulcich as its executive director.

The executive director is responsible for implementing the policies of the chamber’s board of directors and administering the approved budget.

Dulcich is also expected to provide more opportunities for Newcastle businesses to market their companies.

She will add a blog to the existing website and have a greater presence on the chamber’s social media platforms.

The new executive director will effectively become the face, and spokeswoman, of the chamber, said Peter Zevenbergen, the chamber’s president for 2013.

“Imelda Dulcich’s background in public relations, social media and networking made her the best candidate for the job,” Zevenbergen said.

Dulcich is a Newcastle resident, the owner of Imelda Dulcich PR and Social Media, LLC, and the wife of Newcastle City Councilman John Dulcich.

One of the more significant changes in the chamber’s offerings is the implementation of what will be monthly after hours social events and networking breakfasts, in addition to the monthly luncheons.

“They all have a slightly different flavor,” Zevenbergen said. “You can attend all three during the course of a month and get something beneficial from each one of them. But you can also pick and choose. I think that will be of an appeal to more businesses across the board.”

The changes are a result of the chamber’s effort to increase its presence in the Newcastle business community.

A 2011 survey put out by the chamber asked its members whether it would like to see more networking events, and if so, would they be willing to pay higher dues to foot the bill.

“We got an overwhelming response saying that they wanted more opportunities,” said Angela Wingate, the chamber’s past president, in November.

With the incorporation of three events a month, in addition to the chamber’s involvement in larger community events such as the Diamond Awards and Newcastle Days, it was not realistic for the group to continue as an all-volunteer organization, Zevenbergen said.

“When you put the combination of those two things together as a workload, just asking volunteers to continue to step up and do that, and do it in a good way, in a sustainable way, month in and month out, the results are just not what you would want them to be,” he said.

The new executive director, Zevenbergen said, will bring the group a sense of consistency in time and effort that will help ensure the chamber’s sustainability.

Another significant change the chamber implemented is an increase in membership dues. In the brand new tiered membership system, small businesses must pay $185 a year, in what is a steep jump from the 2012 price of $50 a year.

The increase in dues cannot be solely attributed to the hiring of an executive director, Zevenbergen said.

The cost to put on more events and the fact that the dues have not been altered for several years were major factors for the increase, he said.

“Overall what’s happened is we’re putting on an additional number of events and that takes money,” he said. “That’s an investment that the majority of our members and the totality of the board has seen as an investment worth making.”

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