Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance has two jobs

"The collaboration between Colonial Williamsburg and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance is obvious. Working together, we make the best use of our resources to encourage tourism and increase visitation to the entire area. It's good business for Colonial Williamsburg and for the entire region," said Mark Duncan, director of college, community and governmental relations for Colonial Williamsburg.

What do Chamber members get for their dues?

The first is advocacy. The Chamber advocates for a number of issues that are important to the economy and the business community, such as economic diversification, improved transportation, environmental sustainability, availability of quality health care and housing, education and workforce development and tourism promotion.

"We advocate on key issues of tourism and transportation throughout the year with members of the General Assembly," Riordan said. "We do work closely with the Hampton Roads Chamber, which has a EVP of Government Affairs and he advocates with the general assembly on our behalf as well."

Other benefits the Chamber offers are networking events and education.

The education component includes "Prepared, Care, Share" customer service training, business seminars and workshop programs.

The Chamber offers communications support with a newsletter and website listings for members, social media communications and sponsorship opportunities.

Business assistance programs include SCORE Business counseling, and Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Riordan said the Chamber also offers health insurance options for members, via Chamber Solutions.

That's the kind of thing Kennedy said he didn't seen enough of when he was a member.

"I was looking for programs that might allow me to offer health insurance or life insurance to my employees that I had seen that other chambers offered," he said.

The Chamber also works with the Economic Development Authorities in each locality to help to attract businesses.

"Yes, we work well with all three economic development authorities in the destination. In fact, the three Directors all sit on our Economic Progress committee and are instrumental in sharing priorities so the Chamber can lend support in attracting new businesses to the area, as well as help business start-ups, and expansion," Riordan said. "We also work closely with them, as appropriate, on economic development opportunities for the tourism sector including Arts in Williamsburg, Sports Williamsburg and Christmas in Williamsburg."

Riordan said the most important activities are advocacy, education and business networking.

The Chamber's Tourism Alliance side, which works to help market the destination, also helps all area businesses by helping to bring more potential customers into the area.

Chamber efforts at trade shows, the I-64 Welcome Center and for Christmas In Williamsburg and in attracting sporting events are particularly important.

Riordan, who's only been on the job for a short time, says she thinks the community could better understand the Chamber's role.

"So far I've noticed that many residents don't have a deep understanding of all that the Chamber does, probably because we are one organization that also includes the Tourism Alliance. My focus is to help build the entire economic zone which means all businesses, small, medium and large, whether they are directly, indirectly, or not associated with our tourism economy," she said.

She said there could be changes in what the Chamber does.

"I am in the process of reviewing all programs and getting membership input to see where Chamber members want to focus energy. We have excellent all-volunteer standing committees, working on Economic Progress, Government Affairs, Membership, Ambassadors and Armed Forces," she said."In addition, we have tourism committees working on conference sales, group tours, and sports. Other special event committees include the annual dinner dance, the Christmas parade, Taste of Williamsburg, Oktoberfest, Job Fair and the Chamber Challenge Golf tournament."

Bottom line, the Chamber has a big job.

"It takes a lot of committed volunteers and an incredibly hard working team of staff to make all the activities happen yearround and it is impressive to see how much they accomplish," Riordan said.

Steve Vaughan can be reached at (757)345-2343.