Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce President Sue O'Connor has put her own brand on the local chamber since becoming President in 2004 by reaching beyond the business community to local government, Manchester Memorial Hospital, public and private schools, and Manchester Community College to form a very active organization that is over 500 members strong.
Timothy Becker: Sue, what is the mission of the Greater Manchester Chamber?
Sue O'Connor: The mission of the Chamber is to make Manchester an even better place to live, work and do business.
Timothy Becker: You are an ex-officio member of the Manchester Economic Development Commission. What is the commission currently doing?
Sue O'Connor: We are looking at the opportunities for Manchester businesses with the new film studio in South Windsor. They will need hotels, restaurants, clerical help, temporary housing, caterers, and supplies and contractors to build sets. This will have a positive impact on Manchester.
Timothy Becker: What can the town of Manchester do to encourage job growth?
Sue O'Connor: Small businesses could benefit from low interest loans for the capital needed for start-up costs and bringing older buildings in town up to code.
Timothy Becker: You are also a member of the Downtown Special Services District. What is your sense of the sucess of Downtown Manchester?
Sue O'Connor: It is encouraging that First Niagra is working with the district to ease the transition of the merger. They are helping to identify new prospective tenants for the office space that they are vacating. They expect to replace the lost jobs by 2012.
Timothy Becker: The Shoppes at Buckland Hills Mall has many vacant stores and the operator is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. What do you forsee happening at the mall this year?
Sue O'Connor: Retail sales are up, and there are new stores opening up soon. Mall management is engaged in talks with new retailers to locate to this area.
Timothy Becker: Is there any proposed legislation that the Chamber is supporting or opposing this session?
Sue O'Connor: We are opposed to the paid sick leave bill. It is dificult in Connecticut to do business. We believe that each employer should determine their own personnel policies.
Timothy Becker: Do you have any advice for new college graduates who are interested in employment in the business world?
Sue O'Connor: Try to get into the door of a company and get some experience, and then keep looking.
Timothy Becker: How is the Greater Manchester Chamber faring in this economic climate?
Sue O'Connor: We are holding our own. We are on target with our membership goal for this year. We now have about 500 businesses from 31 different towns.
Timothy Becker: How did you become Manchester Chamber President?
Sue O'Connor: I was a stay-at-home Mom and re-entered the workforce in 1994 as a part-time administrative assistant at the Glastonbury chamber. A full-time administrative position opened up in Manchester and I was hired.
The former Manchester chamber President, John Anderson, became a mentor. He sent me to classes at the Institute of Organzational Management for one week each summer for five years. The course of study was very intensive.
When John retired in 2004 I was asked by the Chairman of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce if I was interested in the position. I said yes.
Timothy Becker: What will the Greater Manchester Chamber look like five years from today?
Sue O'Connor: The Chamber will be bigger, stronger and more diverse. If you own a business, call us. The average cost of membership is 85 cents a day!