At last count, at least seven different business groups were claiming to represent all or part of New Hope’s diverse commercial community. Here’s a status report on the top three and a half:
Greater Lambertville-New Hope Chamber of Commerce: The Lamberville Area Chamber voted Jan. 15 to add “New Hope” to its moniker, as first reported in the Free Press. That, and other bylaw changes, were ratified at the group’s annual meeting on Jan. 31.
Said President Wilson Weed, “We are very much in expansion mode. We’re running Restaurant Week…we’ve taken over that. We want to make it a week-long event in late March, and showcase it as one of our first joint ventures with New Hope and Lambertville together.”
In terms of additional plans, Weed said, “We will be incorporating New Hope into Shad Fest, including the Shad Fest poster contest and scholarships.”
Weed also announced another New Hope-based appointment to the GLNHCC board of directors, Terry Meehan, who runs the First Friday monthly art gallery event. “She brings great energy to our board, and we want the artist community to feel represented.
“Terry will be arranging a meeting with New Hope businesses, sort of like what we did in Lambertville,” continued Weed. “And David Morgan and I will be going door-to-door in New Hope soon. We’re not forcing anyone to join, we just want them to be part of the plan.”
Additionally, sources close to the situation say that Sherri Daugherty will probably join the GLNHCC board sooner rather than later. Daugherty is owner of Angel Hearts women’s boutique, and co-founder of Bridge Street Foundation, parent of Bucks County Playhouse and Lambertville Hall. Daugherty was traveling, and not immediately available for comment.
Bucks County Playhouse senior management is developing a plan to take over responsibility for running the currently-closed New Hope visitors center at the request of New Hope Borough Council. That plan envisions extra box office space for the Playhouse, say insiders, along with a number of pay-for-play tourism initiatives that would render the visitors center a promotional “hub” and another potential contender for commerce king, or at least a power behind the throne.
Greater New Hope Chamber of Commerce: The New Hope Chamber has been on a self-described “hiatus” since early November, 2014. Five board members remain, below the seven needed for quorum, and the 13 total directors required under the group’s bylaws. Among them, Linda Rowe is acting as “interim president until the end of March,” she confirmed.
“All of our terms will be up at that time,” added Rowe. “We had a meeting in January, and agreed that we would welcome anyone who would like to see the Chamber reorganize and move forward.” To that end, Rowe said the group is scheduling a business town hall meeting for the first week of March.
Rowe also acknowledged that the effort to ressurrect the New Hope Chamber is being supported by New Hope notable John Danaher. “He and some others are interested in helping move the Chamber forward,” Rowe said.
New Hope Business Alliance: Speaking of meetings, this upstart business group that stepped up to run last year’s Christmas tree lighting is holding an open forum on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m. at the Logan Inn. The group is considering whether to remain an ad hoc volunteer committee that helps promote New Hope events, or to serve primarily as a sort of business owners’ union, advocating for solutions to business community needs and concerns. NHBA will ask meeting attendees to help decide that mission, and also whether to adopt a more formal structure through open elections. NHBA does not charge dues.
Greg Gauthier of the NHBA, and also visitors center rescue group VC2015 said, “New Hope should have its own Chamber, and that Chamber should work closely with Lambertville. New Hope businesses need a voice. NHBA should be a non-partisan, ad hoc group open to all businesses, and focused on events, programs and volunteer programs.
“But if the merchants and businesses want NHBA to become the new New Hope Chamber and become the voice, I agree then that a formal organization is required,” continued Gauthier.
NHBA member Linda Sghiatti said, “In order to get a pulse of what the needs and concerns of the business owners are, the NHBA has prepared a brief questionnaire that they will ask attendees to complete at the meeting. Steering committee members will be circulating copies to businesses over the next few days.”
Jim Jolly of the New Hope Business Alliance said, “What business owners need is a representative voice, so I’d like to see the New Hope Business Alliance serve that need by helping to bring the concerns of the business community to New Hope’s leaders. To me, that’s the issue — having a couple of elected spokespeople or representatives that can advocate for business and become familiar faces to New Hope Borough Council.”
“I believe that in New Hope, as with other local boroughs…[Doylestown, Bristol, etc]…..that more than one group can advocate for, and serve, the business owners and work shoulder to shoulder together. I spent 34 years in the classroom prior to coming to New Hope. As a teacher, we were on the front line with the children. We worked our creative minds to bring new ideas, events, and to promote our children and their education. I see that having a strong Chamber of Commerce as “that” arm in New Hope, with yet another “behind the scenes” group to advocate for the business owners “internally” in areas such as parking, lighting issues, sidewalk issues, street closings, etc.. The Chamber should bring in new ideas, support events and promote what our business owners are doing externally, and have the financial backing to do so through grants and dues. But, as a teacher, we also had a group that advocated for us as we were busy with the children and were building a stronger mind in our children and giving them of our best daily in our classroom. That group was the union. I can see the New Hope Business Alliance serving that need for our business owners. When I served on the New Hope Chamber of Commerce, the job of helping take care of business owners internal issues such as parking, street lighting, street closings, etc. were not served well. We will call that the “internal” issues. It was as if the business owner was left to fend for themselves in those “internal” areas, and that was because we were kept so busy with events and promoting New Hope. I would like to see a partnership with both the NHBA and a strong “New Hope” Chamber, that can serve the business owners of “New Hope” specifically, within “all” areas of concern for the business owner, both internal and external, so that the Chamber is not so bogged down to try to handle all of the business owners “Internal” issues. We saw the beginnings of that with the Block Captain system of the New Hope Chamber of Commerce.”