Many people living in Brookhaven work in other areas, such as Buckhead or Alpharetta, but live in Brookhaven because of the affordable residential market and close commute, said Mary Ellen Layden, vice president of administration for the chamber.
“Promoting the livability of Brookhaven is important to us,” Layden said. “I don’t think other chambers focus on that.”
Executive Director Arthur Freeman discovered nearly half the business community in Brookhaven work from home, and there is little executive activity in the city.
“So we opted for the livability of the city to become a primary focus of the chamber,” he said.
The chamber staff wants all segments of business to get involved, but has seen a high percentage of entrepreneurs or small business owners who work from home join. The chamber reached out to homeowners associations to collaborate with the home-based businesses.
“These are the people we want to target because they so often end up being isolated in their community,” Layden said. “They need the opportunity to network, and they’ve responded quite well.”
There are four programs so far: Listen and Learn, Coffee and Chatter, general membership meetings and meet and greets.
Listen and Learn is an evening event every fourth Thursday with speakers. The next will be June 27 with CPA Henry Spil, called “Stump the CPA.” Spil requested guests send him questions before the meeting, and he will focus on financial management. It is free to members and $10 for non-members.
Coffee and Chatter has a more social feel. Members and non-members meet at 7 a.m. the first Thursday of each month at rotating venues to network.
“It’s highly successful,” Layden said. “The networking is spontaneous and many bounce ideas off each other and expand their circle of contacts.”
General membership meetings are quarterly and include speakers as well. The latest topic was the Affordable Healthcare Act and how it affects businesses.
Meet and greets are lunch gatherings at noon every third Wednesday at various restaurants. This is a partnership with city officials, Layden said, and the latest featured speaker was Brandon Gurley, spokesman for the Brookhaven Police Department.
The chamber goes beyond planning networking events, and helps businesses obtain permits and licenses through the city, Layden said.
“We keep our hand in the development of the city and raise the community’s awareness of businesses here,” she said.
The city of Brookhaven became one of the first members, Freeman said, and both entities are working together to promote Broohkaven’s quality of life.