Chambers of Commerce urged to seek new businesses, support existing businesses
By GARLAND FORMAN, Co-Editor
Although enticing big businesses and industry to locate in the community is always a goal, a local chamber of commerce must also work to help the existing businesses, no matter how small, Bunkie Chamber of Commerce President Tiffany Tuminello told Bunkie business owners.
The afterhours meeting with local business owners was held on Aug. 27.
Comments made at that meeting can be applied to any chamber of commerce in any community.
“The Chamber of Commerce is here to help Bunkie succeed,” Tuminello told the group. “This is our town and we only get what we put into it. We need to come together and make Bunkie grow.”
Businesses in Bunkie should be appreciated for making residents’ shopping and service needs convenient. If these businesses were not in the community, people would have to travel great distances to find the products or services they need.
“These businesses support the activities and events in Bunkie,” Tuminello added. “The Chamber will support the Louisiana Corn Festival, but we also support the needs of the local businesses.”
The Chamber, which is supported by dues from businesses, recently donated $1,000 of school supplies to local schools.
The Chamber is making plans to invest funds to upgrade and improve its website. The website will be interactive and have many features that will be easy to use.
Another area of opportunity is marketing, which would enable existing businesses to be promoted.
Tuminello said the Chamber can hold job fairs like the one on Sept. 15 for the Office of Juvenile Justice at Haas Auditorium.
Even though Gulf Coast Spinning has pulled out of Bunkie, the Industrial Park is a major site for industry, she said.
One of Bunkie’s biggest partners in the Industrial Park is Cleco, which has invested more than $11 million in making the park ready for industrial tenants.
“We will succeed in Bunkie, but it will take all of us,” Tuminello said.
Bunkie Mayor Mike Robertson told the group that 71% of new jobs generated in Bunkie comes from the existing businesses in Bunkie.
“While we are chasing the big jobs, we still need to help and promote the local businesses,” Robertson said. “It is important for people to get involved to improve business.”
Another Bunkie Chamber project is a Main Street clean-up project set for Sept. 26. She said she hopes some vacant buildings can be painted to brighten up the look of Main Street.
“We want to take pride in how Bunkie looks,” Tuminello said. “Our goal on Main Street is to make it look like the Main Street of old.”
Some of the business owners asked what can be done about buildings that are not repairable and need to be demolished.
Tuminello and Robertson agreed the buildings should come down, but quickly added that the legal process is time-consuming.
The proposed sidewalk project on Main Street has been underway for four years as the city awaits funding from the state.
“We are still waiting on the funding from the state, but the state has no money to fund the project,” Robertson said. “We can still do more to improve Main Street if everyone pulls together.”
Businessman Greg Kojis said Wal-Mart had approached him about buying some property to build a neighborhood market. Kojis said he turned down the offer, which drew a loud applause.
“When Wal-Mart came here the first time, there were 14 ‘Mom and Pop’ business that left and they will never come back,” Kojis said. “I don’t want them to destroy Bunkie again.”
Kojis said the mega-store officials left Bunkie, but quickly added that they are still searching for property.