Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber previews upcoming economic summit, merger plans


Credit: Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce

The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, now entering its 68th year of promoting business and community building in the Mount Vernon and Lee districts of Fairfax County, has some big plans for the coming year.

First off is the chamber’s Economic Outlook 2022 event taking place Thursday, April 7 at the Belle Haven Country Club. One of the chamber’s signature annual events, the economic summit — held jointly with the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) — is returning to in-person format this year after being cancelled in 2020 and held via Zoom last year due to the pandemic.

Holly Dougherty, president of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber, is glad to hold the event in-person again and says the timing of the subject matter couldn’t be better. “It feels like a really good thing because there is so much happening with the economy right now — inflation, supply chain issues,” said Dougherty. “It’s just a challenge for anyone to find enough employees right now.”

Indeed, workforce development is a new and central focus of this year’s Economic Outlook event. Besides hearing from speakers on the regional economic outlook and small-business challenges, attendees will learn about the new workforce training center being opened at the Lee District Community Center, NOVA Workforce’s continuing education and professional development training, and Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s talent initiative program.

SFDC enjoys co-hosting the event, said executive director Evan Kaufman, because it helps inform the Richmond Highway community, SFDC partners and sponsors about the latest economic trends and developments happening locally, regionally and nationally.

Registration for the event/business breakfast is still open for both chamber members and non-members via the organization’s website.

Chamber members mingle at a networking event. Credit: Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce

The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber is also preparing for another major event this year — its impending merger with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, which services the communities of Burke, Fairfax Station, Franconia, Kingstowne, Laurel Hill, Lorton Station, Newington and Springfield.

The two chambers formally agreed upon the merger in January, said Dougherty, and they are in the process of ironing out the details, including the newly combined chamber’s headquarters, branding and bylaws. The tentative plan is to officially join forces in July, with both boards of directors continuing to work collaboratively until the November elections determine the newly combined board’s composition.

The Mount Vernon-Lee and Greater Springfield Chambers are pursuing this phased-in approach to the merger to ensure an orderly continuation of activities, said Dougherty.

“We’re excited about working together to promote business in the area and to be more effective together,” she said.

The recent pandemic only strengthened Dougherty’s view of the value of local chambers of commerce. Besides providing fellowship and camaraderie during a difficult time, the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber helped provide authoritative information to members on topics like loan programs, grants and regulation changes, she said.

“The pandemic showed us more than ever the need for a chamber of commerce to provide resources to members to get them through difficult situations,” said Dougherty. “That was key.”

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