Cabarrus Chamber looks to sub-lease offices


March 10. As the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce gets ready for the annual meeting Friday at Great Wolf Lodge, it’s a different organization than it was not just a decade ago, but only two or three years ago.

For one thing, its main office is for lease. The chamber is using only about half of the space it signed up for five years ago when the 12,500 square foot building was sold and chamber officials leased back roughly 5,000 square feet.

The Cabarrus Chamber has had more than its share of challenges:

  • Big sponsors like Pillowtex and Philip Morris closed up shop in Cabarrus. First Charter got a new name, a new owner and moved to Charlotte
  • The swank chamber building was designed and built to house the chamber and the Convention & VIsitors Bureau as well. The CVB moved to the Concord Mills area in time for the May races in 2011.
  • The chamber industry on its own has morphed from what used to seem like a civic duty to a competition for dollars and time, especially among a younger generation of business owners.

Interim Chamber CEO Terry Crawford says the chamber only needs about 2,800 square feet. The chamber is halfway through a 10-year lease.

The board, however, is closer to hiring a new CEO, possibly this spring. The search for a replacement for Patrick Coughlin is being done in-house, without the help of an outside recruitment firm. Coughlin was terminated late last fall.

Much has changed in the chamber business according to Chris Mead, senior vice president of the national Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. “You’ve seen one chamber you’ve seen one chamber,” he said. “They’re as different as different regions in the country.”

Cabarrus, he said, suffered more than most chambers with the loss of thousands of manufacturing and textile jobs over the past decade.

At the annual meeting, the chair’s gavel will pass from Tammy Whaley, of Duke Energy, to Tim Vaughn, of Hilbish Ford. Crawford expects a crowd of 350 people, and the venue is sold out.

Back when the annual meeting was held at Embassy Suites, where the now-retired Crawford was the general manager, upwards of 600 people attended.


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