Chamber members must be active to maintain network, president says

PUNXSUTAWNEY — If a business owner seeks to reach new clients and connections, he or she need not click a mouse on social networking Web sites.

There’s already a wireless tool for making connections, and that’s the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, according to Board of Directors President Jeff Curtis.

Curtis, who gave a “State of the Chamber” address during the organization’s annual luncheon Thursday at the Punxsy Country Club, said if one isn’t sure what exactly the Chamber does, he or she should think about life without a Chamber of Commerce.

The Punxsy Chamber works on a local level to develop strong local networks among businesses and local government. Membership helps develop business contacts and accessibility to those who can help grow business, Curtis said.

One of the keys to successfully implementing those benefits is remaining an active Chamber member, as opposed to taking a hands-out approach, he said.

Curtis expressed concern about low turnout at ribbon-cuttings — of which there have been eight this year — and mixers, saying, “Can we leave business as it is? If so, business becomes stagnant.”

While the economy has taken a toll on the local Chamber, it is looking for ways to raise funds, Curtis said. The eventual halt to the Punxsy Phil Beanie Babies and a slow Groundhog Day have affected Phil’s Souvenir Shop, resulting in fewer hours for employees, “but we have not sacrificed service to members.”

In addition to ribbon-cuttings and mixers, the Chamber continues to support local business through its new Marcellus Shale Task Force, dedicated to attracting natural gas companies to Punxsy and its resources; its electricity savings programs for members and their employees; and works with PRIDE on events and programs such as the facade improvement program, the Farmers’ Market and the upcoming Home for the Holidays event.

There are currently 275 Chamber members, “but we need to enlist more,” Curtis said.

“If we gather together, we can create a bond; we can unite as one voice and be heard louder,” he said. “We are here for the businesses of Punxsutawney. We want to see them grow.”

Also during the luncheon, Brian Turk spoke about Alpha Natural Resources, for which he serves as director of government and external affairs.

Alpha Natural Resources — which sponsored Thursday’s luncheon — was first formed in 2002 with the idea of mining for coal in a safer, more environmentally-friendly manner.

In 2009, after the purchase of Foundation Coal, ANR grew to 7,000 employees. Since the acquisition of Massey Energy, ANR has grown to 14,000 employees serving Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming.

According to Turk, ANR has mined 100 million tons of coal this year, 14 million of which were mined in Pennsylvania.

Its local mines are in Dora and Brockway, yielding 172,000 tons of coal, he said.

Turk said ANR is interested in maintaining coal as a reliable and safe energy source in the 21st century.