The Burgaw Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) officially began in 1982. However, its roots can be traced all the way back to April 11th, 1922, when the Wilmington Morning Star detailed a meeting that took place between the Burgaw Chamber of Commerce and its’ Wilmington equivalent. Emphasizing the positive relationship between Pender and New Hanover County, the article quotes Waddell Waters (NHC), who calls the meeting “one of the finest [he] had ever attended”(Figure 1). The history of the BACC winds and weaves from there, with mentions of various, similarly-named organizations being made in both 1940 & 1952. In a December 5th, 1940 publication of The Pender Chronicle, E. M. Thompson is credited with leading a committee of five other men in organizing the Pender County Chamber of Commerce, “an agency, which it is hoped will function in a large way in the promotion of the interests of the county” (Figure 2). The August 14th, 1952 issuance of the same paper notes the founding of The Burgaw Junior Chamber of Commerce, or, as they were commonly called, the ‘Burgaw Jaycees’: a group of civically-minded, young men whose purpose was community improvement and “boosterism” (Figure 3). With much of the details lost to history, we are left to wonder how the various transitions happened throughout the years. The Chamber’s commitment to service, however, has never been in question — with a mission consistently centered on enhancing the area’s economic growth and helping local businesses prosper.
Today’s version of the BACC is a membership-based, non-profit organization comprised of 11 board members and an Executive Director. Housed in the historic Burgaw Train Depot — one of the oldest buildings in town, and largely regarded as the oldest train depot in North Carolina — the Chamber has found the sweet spot between honoring tradition and moving towards the future. Jimmy Smith, Board President, discusses the board’s continued reliance on ‘Roberts Rules for Order’, for example, an 1876 manual that details parliamentary procedure. The BACC also carries on the tradition of hosting the Burgaw Christmas Parade, something first started in the era of The Burgaw Jaycees. Yet, at the very same time, the BACC now provides huge benefits to its members via its social media presence, an asset that firmly plants it in 2020.
Arwyn Smith, the newly appointed executive director, is another perfect example of the dance between past and future. Granddaughter to a former Mayor of Burgaw, her deep rooted connection to the town makes her perfectly suited for the position — someone who understands where Burgaw has been, while equally understanding the importance of moving it into the modern era. “I want to see Burgaw thrive”, Arwyn explains, “it’s such a cute, quaint little town and I… think it has the ability to keep that small town charm, but still expand as far as business and growth”. With a commitment to locally owned, ‘mom & pop’ shops, Arwyn continues the BACC’s mission of increasing their successes.
For a yearly membership fee of $100, any business can gain access to the benefits the BACC provides. The 140 current members can expect everything from business expos and networking events, ribbon cutting ceremonies for new members, and perks as seemingly simple (yet impactful) as bulk postage. “Even just sending your first bulk-postage out, you’re already getting your money’s worth,” Arwyn explains. The BACC also spends time taking calls from the public & recommending various businesses, reposting the businesses on their Facebook page, and brainstorming new and creative ways to get the word about Burgaw out there. Going above and beyond an average Chamber’s services, in 1984 they even established a scholarship program, and in 2016 they launched a Women’s Connect group meant for networking and idea sharing.
With a new leader at the helm, we’re excited to see what the BACC will come up with next, and how they will continue their commitment and service to Burgaw. For more details about the Burgaw Area Chamber of Commerce, visit their offices located inside the Historic Train Depot at 115 South Dickerson St, their Facebook, or their website (www.burgawchamber.com). And if you’re a business in Burgaw who is interested in membership, don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.