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Providing Resources For Every Small Business

The Chamber has evolved over the years, adapting to changes both in leadership and the economy. However, one thing has remained consistent-our mission to be the voice of the business community and provide members with the tools and resources needed to succeed. Those resources come in many different forms from access to information, people, and organizations to valuable educational opportunities. The GEM Program is one such example and stands for Growing Entrepreneurs Marion. The program, a collaborative effort of the Chamber, the City of Marion, the Marion Business Association, and McDowell Technical Community College, is a free, 8-session business course designed to help potential, existing, and seasoned entrepreneurs in understanding the dynamics of starting, owning, operating, a business. 

In addition to our own offerings such as the free marketing tools, the LINC leadership course, and educational classes, we search out and establish relationships and partnerships with local, regional, and national, business-focused organizations. We work earnestly to identify, create, and nurture these partnerships in order to expand the resource pool for our members. Some of the partners with which we work include: 

By partnering with these organization we can provide our members with highly qualified mentors in a variety of industries, classes covering legal issues, marketing, and hiring, and more, assistance with grants and funding, programs and resources on opening a business, and even help when you are ready to expand.

We've even partnered with Lenoir-Rhyne University to offer our members exclusive discounts to its Master's program for general MBAs to area-specific degrees such as accounting, innovation and change management, leadership development, nonprofit management, sustainable studies, and registered nursing. There are seven different MBA concentrations available completely online for those that don't have the time for driving to the Hickory or Asheville campuses. 

This program offers Chamber members and employees with tuition discounts and other benefits when enrolling in any of the University’s Master’s Degree or Adult Learner Bachelor’s Degree programs. Personalized, affordable, and designed for working professionals, courses are available in downtown Asheville and Hickory in the evenings, online, or from a distance. Start any semester and go at your own pace.

Another educational opportunity in the works is with McDowell Technical Community College's Continuing Education Department. We are exploring the idea of a curriculum specifically geared toward the hospitality and retail industry to help employers provide quality training for their staff on everything from customer service to management. The idea is to start small with one or two classes offered jointly by the Chamber and MTCC to gauge the greatest need in the community.
Since January, 28 students have graduated from the GEM Program resulting in the opening of 11 new hospitality/retail-related businesses. As this market grows, we realize the need to help our businesses put their best foot forward.  They are, in essence, our greeting committee for visitors and potential residents. We want to help them make a great impression! 

One of the best resources is our free marketing tools for all members. If your business is not taking advantage of our calendar tool, our press release tool, our job posting tool, or our hot deals tool to communicate with the chamber's more than 400K website visitors, or 100K plus social media audience, you're missing a considerable opportunity--all for free. 

Contact the Chamber at 828.652.4240 or to find out more about these offerings and programs. You can also visit our website at 

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