Interview: Erika Erlenbach will chair LKN Chamber in 2021

Erika Erlenbach

Feb. 5. Erika Erlenbach, a familiar name in Lake Norman business and legal affairs, is the new volunteer chair of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

The 43-year-old partner at Ascension Law in Charlotte is honored. “We have a dynamic board, committed staff, fantastic volunteers and a wonderful membership,” she said.

Hard work

She’s more than accustomed to not just the world of small business, but hard work. Her first “real job” was working for Zayre Department Store in Sanford. She started in the men’s department, worked her way up to cashier and then customer service.

“My favorite hours were midnight to 8 am the week before Christmas when we were open 24 hours,” she said. That shift paid time and a half—a lot of money when the minimum wage was $3.85 an hour.

The chamber business is no easy undertaking with competition from networking groups not to mention the general day-to-day frenzy of entrepreneurship and a worldwide pandemic. Nevertheless, Erlenbach hopes to grow it in 2021.

“The chamber became a conduit for communication, and we put webinars and programs in place like our ReStartLKN Guide that helped business prepare for Phase II and then compete in a challenging environment,” she said.

And who knows when “normal” will be back.

“We certainly hope soon, though what ‘normal’ looks like will be the question,” Erlenbach said.

The chamber was instrumental in getting information out to membership about the various Stay at Home orders.

“That said, we all must feel safe and comfortable,” she said.

Erlenbach is taking a nuanced approach to membership this year.

“It’s not a number – it’s an attitude: The Power of “RE.” We are going to Re-Imagine, Re-Connect, Re-Engage, Re-Vitalize, Re-Fresh, and Re-New our relationships. Think about all the variations of “RE.” Two simple little letters, but there is power when you allow the words to speak boldly of your intentions, and your actions to speak louder than the words,” she said.

Cornelius Today caught up with Erlenbach for a socially distanced interview as her new role as chamber chair gets under way.

As chamber chair, what are your top three goals for 2021?

• While many businesses in the Lake Norman region survived the recession a decade ago, this pandemic has been the biggest economic and health care crisis many of us have faced in our lifetime. It is extremely important as a chamber of commerce that we assist our members as they fight to survive this challenge.  Whether that entails providing them programs through our webinars or spotlighting them and giving them additional exposure through the chamber’s social media and communications, our number one priority for the Lake Norman Chamber is the membership itself.

• Another goal for 2021 is to provide meaningful opportunities and connections for our chamber members, whether through our programing or advocating for our business community.  We recognize that membership in the Chamber is an investment. The business owner or manager is making an investment in their business and an investment in their community with every dollar they put into the chamber.  We in turn must use those dollars wisely to create the best programs, seminars, and events which can help the professional development of their staff, the productivity of their business, and create a better climate for their business.

• The chamber will also continue to be the voice of business in our region. While we do not purport to represent every business in the area, we recognize that an association with nearly 900 members can advocate loudly for the interest of business and commerce in the lake region.  As the largest chamber in the Charlotte region, we take that charge seriously. Last week our board unanimously approved a resolution opposing a sales tax increase for transit. While Charlotte City leaders may believe they need to expand transit service, it is not the right time for a sales tax increase and the impact it will have on our businesses and the consumer. We are not opposing a tax, in as much as we are supporting our area businesses and we will not shrink from that task.

What are you hearing from small business, perhaps B2B more so than restaurants?

Not surprisingly, for most it has been a very tough year, but in the midst of that, I have heard very positive comments about how hard our local community banks and financial institutions have stepped up to help businesses with their PPP and small business assistance and how much businesses are intentionally supporting each other locally. We will get through this but we need to engage with each other in a very positive way.

Apart from the coronavirus, what’s your longer-term outlook for the regional economy—think ongoing in-migration, economic development?

While there are many parts of this nation where I could live and practice law, I chose Lake Norman because of what it provides and who makes up this region – it has so much potential.  Our proximity to Charlotte and the cultural and economic benefits it provides coupled with our lake lifestyle makes this an outstanding place to live, work and visit.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment