ROGERSVILLE — On Friday, July 26, the Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce celebrated the opening of their new office with an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony.

The new office, located at 110 East Kyle Street, is next door to Rogersville City Hall. The Chamber was formerly located on the ground floor of US Bank’s branch in downtown Rogersville, which closed in May.

“We just have so much more room,” said Nancy Barker, who has been the Director for the last 22 years. “Our new location offers more visibility, better parking and easier access. We can actually host events here and display our products.”

The building was brimming with people during Friday’s event. Chamber members, local business representatives, and citizens alike were in attendance.

A smorgasbord of food was also available for attendees to enjoy.

“The catering was provided by the Chamber Board members and several dear friends,” Barker said. “I have a wonderful working board that is always willing to pitch in and help with any ideas I come up with. I certainly appreciate the board volunteering the time and energy to help keep the Chamber strong and their service to the community.”

The Chamber moved more than 20 years’ worth of material

The new building, which formerly housed the District Attorney General’s office, required some cleaning when the Chamber first acquired it, as it had been vacant for several years.

“The Chamber cleaned the building inside from top to bottom including floors, walls, carpet and windows,” Barker said. “We also had the landscape freshened up.”

One gas heating unit also had to be replaced.

“I am probably most excited about my new office,” said Barker with a laugh.

In order to relocate to the new building, more than 20 years’ worth of records and material had to be moved.

“Moving from a location that we had been in for 20 years was a little challenging,” Barker said. “Once we got our current building ready on the inside, we were able to move items we did not use on a daily basis in the afternoons and weekends. But, the joys of living in a small town are that people would come by, see us moving and would stop to pitch in for an hour or two.”

With the help of Nancy Barker’s husband, Larry Barker, and a crew from Hawkins County Gas Utility, the final items from the Chamber office were able to be moved and the new office set up with no down time for the Chamber. Barker also explained that the move proved as a great opportunity to clean out old records and items the Chamber no longer needed.

“I think the biggest challenge is getting word out that we have moved,” Barker said. “Fortunately, at the new location, the Chamber is much more visible than it was before because of the location, signage and the fact that we are in our own building. I really love the new location and offices, but I hope we never have to move again. You sure can accumulate a lot of stuff in 20 years.”

Helping local businesses since 1947

According to their website, the Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce, which was established in 1947, “is a volunteer partnership of business and professional people working together to build a healthy economy and to improve the quality of life in our community.”

The Chamber serves as the “front door to the community,” as they are often the first contact for visitors, newcomers and business prospects.

They also answer questions for anyone seeking information about the community and “serve as an information center for demographics, maps, phone books, event information, industrial lists and most any other service [they] can provide.”

Since 1957, the Chamber has worked closely with the Hawkins Co. Industrial Development Board with the goal of bringing business and industry to the community.

According to Barker, the Chamber is also involved in numerous projects to promote the beautification and growth of the community. For example, the Chamber offers a leadership program, Keep Hawkins Clean programs and the Rogersville Main Street Program. The Chamber also worked to get Hawkins County certified by the Governor’s Three Star, which ensures that the county is economically prepared to service businesses looking to move to the county.

They host a monthly membership breakfast that is located at a different business each month in order to showcase that business and allow its members to network with fellow business associates. They also often sell candy tins, Christmas ornaments and books.

The Chamber also provides counseling through the TSBDC (Tennessee Small Business Development Centers) for existing small businesses in the area or those who are interested in starting a business.

Interested in becoming a member or taking advantage of one of the many Chamber services? The new office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can also be contacted by phone at 423-272-2186.