The May meeting of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce was something of a pep rally, as President Matt Dorans presented the membership with a more upbeat assessment of Bayonne’s economic future.
The Chamber of Commerce, over the last few years, has been making changes that allowed it to maintain itself even in tough economic times.
Dorans said he believes that Bayonne’s Chamber of Commerce has something special going for it.
“When I first took over as president, I wasn’t sure that we were going to survive,” Dorans said. “But I was determined not to let this ship sink.”
“When I first took over as president, I wasn’t sure that we were going to survive.” – Matt Dorans
“Next year is 2012 and the chamber will be 100 years old,” he said.
The chamber was founded in 1912, and according to Dorans in his welcoming statement, has striven since then to “stimulate, retain, improve, and expand the role of business life in the community.”
In the past, the chamber represented heavy industry and large manufacturers, but lost focus as these types of businesses left Bayonne. In the heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, the Chamber of Commerce often was seen as a powerful voice in the community, helping City Hall to shape pro-business policies.
“I don’t know if we’ll go back there,” he said.
The chamber has changed over the last few decades. Now most of the large manufacturers that once made up the economic base of the city are gone, and the world is in the midst of one of the greatest economic downturns in decades.
Dorans, who became president of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce early in 2007, said reaching out to the community through a variety of “meet and greet” events has allowed the chamber to introduce itself to a new business community and has brought in new members.
Last year, Dorans began to hold events that would allow the chamber to embrace some of the new businesses and professions, such as financial and medical.
City Council President Terrence Ruane said that the development of the mall is something significant, not just for Bayonne, but for the state.
“I think we need to keep a positive slant on everything,” he said. “I don’t believe in being negative even in economically tough times. We’re getting through this thing and we’ll make it work.”
He said the city has begun to focus on developing some of its blighted property, especially in the gateway section off the Turnpike Extension near Avenue E.
Saying that the Chamber is starting a new chapter to an already rich history in Bayonne, Dorans noted that the Chamber remains a relevant place to help voice the concerns of the business community.
Dorans said that one of the significant changes made over the last year involved businesses coming together to help local charities.
Dorans said he wants to make the chamber more effective, which will include a new website to be launched shortly that will allow businesses to promote themselves.
One significant element will be a community calendar that will allow groups throughout the city to submit the dates of events – to be imputed by the Chamber – and that will do away with many of the conflicts that exist.
As importantly, businesses will be able to talk to each other through Web site and associated email at http://www.bayonnechamber.org.
The Chamber will host the State of the City address on June 22 at the Chandelier Restaurant.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.