NC Commerce head to speak at Chamber banquet

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N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Tar Heel State’s chief business development official will be the featured speaker at the Elizabeth City Area of Commerce’s 107th Annual Dinner next month.

Also, Chamber officials have announced the agency’s annual Business Expo, a traditional spring event, has been moved to the autumn.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland is set to address the local business advocacy organization the evening of Feb. 8 at the K.E. White Center. Chamber President Mike Hindenach said the event will be a homecoming for Copeland, a Hertford native, and also said, “I think it’s just a great opportunity for us.”

Hindenach said it was Chamber Membership Director Dayna Sones’ idea to invite Copeland. “And I recognized a good idea the second I heard it,” he said.

Copeland is a Duke University alumnus whose résumé includes having been an executive with the telecommunications firm BTI and having served as an assistant commerce secretary in the Gov. Mike Easley’s administration. More recently, Copeland had been an attorney in Raleigh.

As is the custom, the dinner also will be the scene of the Chamber presenting awards to the top local business, the top local non-profit organization and the organization’s top ambassador.

For Hindenach, who joined the local Chamber in July 2016, last March marked his first time to lead the Chamber’s annual business expo, the Chamber’s 26th, which is also held at the K.E. White Center.

The expo has grown over the years from a daytime event to one with a “sneak peak” and two cooking events the evening before. The event also has grown to include a job fair.

Hindenach last week said although the expo has a different theme every year, he believes what one is seeing is essentially different decorations of the same gathering.

“What we really need to do is re-energize that event,” he said. “I think that anytime you do something over and over and over again, it starts to get a little stale.”   

Hindenach said he and his team, in addition to shifting the expo to this autumn, may change the event’s format a bit.

He said he’ll let a Chamber committee come up with proposed specific modifications changes to the expo, but in his year and a half in the Elizabeth City area, he has emphasized the need for more of a “town and gown” relationship locally.

The Pasquotank County seat is the home of Elizabeth City State University, the main campus of College of the Albemarle and Mid-Atlantic Christian University. Just this past September, the Chamber hosted a first-ever “College Week” locally to draw attention to the impacts of ECSU, COA and MACU.

Hindenach last week made clear he believes shifting the Chamber business expo to this autumn is logical, given the K.E. White Center, an ECSU facility where students have gotten their feet on the ground for the fall semester.

With the expo being held in the autumn, he said he believes students can begin seeing some of the other business they may not be aware of in the Elizabeth City area.

“I think we really need to reach into our student body and let them be aware of what we have as a community, because I think it’s easy to stay on campus and really miss an awful lot of great stuff that you didn’t even know was here,” he said.