Chamber leader looks ahead

Published 7:19 pm Saturday, December 25, 2010

Even after eight years of membership in the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Darren Schultz continues to find new ways that his business benefits from being a part of the organization.


Now, as he prepares to take the reins as the 2011 chairman of the Chamber’s Suffolk Division Board of Directors, Schultz has made it his job to let other business owners in the area know just how much the Chamber can help them.

“There’s no better organization that speaks for business with one voice,” he said this week during an interview at Copico, the printing business on Godwin Boulevard that he bought 10 years ago. “It’s meant a voice, a political voice that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

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But for Schultz, the Chamber has been about many more tangible and directly accessible benefits, as well.

Schultz said the Chamber has been instrumental in helping him to meet other members and drum up business contacts at networking events; in teaching him more about how to run a successful business — or giving his employees a chance to increase their own business knowledge — through the business education series; in providing regional briefings about topics ranging from state and federal legislation to the future of the military in Hampton Roads; and in giving free advice from the Small Business Development Center.

“There are so many advantages to being a member, it’s hard to justify not joining,” he said.

Schultz replaces Lisa Kersey of Bon Secours in the one-year, volunteer position as the leader of the Suffolk Division’s Board of Directors.

He said that outreach to potential new members will be his main focus while in the new position. But he also knows the position will require him to be on his toes and ready for anything, as was reinforced when the Pentagon announced plans in August to close U.S. Joint Forces Command.

The Chamber of Commerce has taken an important role both in the effort to stop that decision from being implemented and in preparing Suffolk businesses for life without the 2,000 or so JFCOM contractors, civilians and members of the military who work for the command at its Suffolk location.

“No matter what happens up there, we are positioned to work with business owners through the Small Business Development Center,” Schultz said. “I’m optimistic that Suffolk, whatever happens, will weather this.”

Chamber volunteers also work closely with the Suffolk Department of Economic Development to promote the city to new businesses and to support those businesses already located here.

“Suffolk is positioned very well for growth,” Schultz said.