Loudon County Chamber of Commerce leadership is optimistic 2021 will build off the successes of the past couple of years.

“Coming off last year and doing as well as we did in that environment, I think we have a lot of good things in store for us for 2021,” Rodney Grugin, chamber president, said. “Our membership seems to be excited. Our board is excited and so I think we’re moving forward, that the momentum is there. … We’ve got a great board this year, got some new people on it with the energy levels, so we’re excited for ‘21.”

The focus for board chairman George Bove will be to invite, speak well and unite.

“Invite every single person business-minded, community-minded. Invite,” Bove said. “They’re all invited … to come to our events, check it out and become a member. Then for our membership, more especially our leadership, speak well. Speak well is hugely important. The more that we speak well the more that people are going to know about us. It’s not a great secret and people ought to know about us. I’ve encouraged our board, our board of directors, our executive board all to speak well as much as they can about the chamber.

“… We can see, you can see, business coming up in Loudon County. It’s beautiful,” he added. “There’s new businesses opening every day and we can see these folks who are moving here from these other states. They’re bringing their entrepreneurial skills with them.”

With a membership of 439, the chamber’s goal of 500 is closer to reality.

Meeting that goal falls on creating excitement.

“Introducing different type programs, things that will be more attractive to a larger audience, if you will,” Grugin said. “Last year we started the member education program. That went really well in the fourth quarter of last year and we’re going to continue that this year. That’s a program where we could scholarship train for our members. Adding programs such as that is going to entice members to come and join.”

Grugin hopes to keep prior events and programs in place, including DIY workshops and the business expo.

The expo was held Feb. 28 at The Venue at Lenoir City. If the event happens this year, Grugin said it could return to The Venue or be held at an outside location.

“We have our golf tournament coming up the first of April,” Grugin said. “Toqua Golf Course out in Tellico Village is going to host us for that, so we’re really excited about that. We’re going to attempt to do our business expo, which normally that’s done end of February or first of March, and we haven’t started planning that yet because we don’t know what that’s going to look like this year. We’ll also have our gala. … Again, we don’t know exactly how that’s going to look, what happens with COVID. We’re going to try to play it by ear and as we go through we’re going to add as many things as we can.”

Other activities are being considered, Grugin said.

“We haven’t really settled on a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve added a couple of events and more fun-type of events than really your basic fundraiser. We want to increase the visibility of the chamber and what we’re doing and we want to have some fun while we do that.”

Depot Street will be blocked off noon-5 p.m. March 19 for a Chop to the Top axe-throwing competition at East Tennessee Axe Throwing in Lenoir City. The competition will be in conjunction with the Historic Downtown Lenoir City Merchants Association.

“We started this year, we have our events, we have our golf tournament, which is beautiful, we have our Business After Hours, our gala event and things of that nature that have great networking opportunities, but me and a few others thought, ‘Well, let’s see if we can add a couple more events’,” Bove said. “The axe-throwing place in Lenoir City was a beautiful opportunity to bring folks who don’t play golf. … That’s going to be an exciting event.”

He said the chamber is also planning a cornhole tournament later in the year.

“To me joining the chamber is just like joining anything else, just like joining a gym,” Grugin said. “If you join a gym and don’t ever go, you’re not going to have any progress. If you join the chamber and you don’t participate, then you’re not going to get anything out of it. Give it a chance. Come talk to us. We can let you know what we’ve got going.”

Updates to the chamber website are nearly complete.

“We’re real excited about that to be able to do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past with that,” Grugin said. “We’ve also instituted a new member management software, which is going to, again, allow us to do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past. We made that investment last year and still trying to pull that online. It’s been a long process, but it’s going to be well worth it when we get it done.”

For more information, visit www.loudoncountychamberofcommerce.com.