PORT ANGELES — Some two months after joining the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce as its executive director, Marc Abshire is moving ahead with new programs.
Abshire, 55, on Feb. 1 stepped into the position vacated by Russ Veenema, who retired Dec. 30 at the age of 62 after 15 years as the chamber’s director.
Abshire’s first concern was to improve involvement and attendance at chamber meetings.
“The board asked me to restructure our meeting program that we have. I think they felt it was time for a change,” said Abshire, a Port Townsend High School graduate who had served as the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce executive director since October 2014.
He surveyed chamber members about the best times for them to attend gatherings and what they wanted from them.
The 80 responses from the some 400 members prompted him to change the chamber’s prior schedule of Monday luncheon meetings.
“Some business owners cannot attend luncheons but can attend evening or morning events,” he said earlier this month, adding that some expressed a desire for more networking opportunities.
Last week, the chamber unveiled its new plans — and started off with an after-hours evening mixer Thursday.
More than 200 people took part in the evening of networking at the H2O Waterfront Bistro, 222 N. Lincoln St., Abshire said.
He ascribed part of the evening’s success to having three businesses host it rather than only one. The Peninsula Daily News, Franni’s Gift Expressions and Harbinger Winery were Thursday night’s hosts.
Abshire has created a matrix that includes not just his organization’s meetings but those of the Sequim Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce — many of the Port Angeles members also belong to the Sequim group — as well as those of the Port Angeles Business Association and others.
The matrix was designed to help reduce schedule clashes.
In addition to evening mixers, luncheon meetings are set for the second Wednesday of each month from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St.
The next luncheon will be April 13. The speaker will be Bill Greenwood, executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Corp.
Monthly membership meetings, called B4B meetings — business for business — are set from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.
The B4B meetings will focus on expert presentations or workshops on topics that members determine are interesting and important to them, said Abshire in an email.
The organization’s board will meet on the third Thursday of the month at various locations.
Car show coming
In the near term, the new director is excited about the Northwest European Car Club’s Port Angeles Cruise-In, which is coming to town April 16.
The organization, which features European cars, will display cars in the Red Lion Hotel parking lot and on Port Angeles’ City Pier.
Abshire expects there will be a band and other entertainment to help create a family activity that will attract people to town.
Chamber of Commerce representatives also have been talking with a grass-roots group that wants to add to the city’s Independence Day celebration.
Adding activities to the city’s traditional parade and evening fireworks would help keep residents in town and attract others, Abshire said.
Meetings are scheduled with the city’s fireworks contractor and the fire marshal, he said.
“There’s a lot of potential here,” Abshire said.
The EDC, the Port Angeles Business Association and other organizations are in a good place, he said, with leadership poised to move forward.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
Assistant Managing Editor Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55450, or email@example.com.Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this report.