Gauthier embraces technology as chamber prez

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Erika Gauthier is all smiles after being named president of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce. She said she is excited to continue initiatives she began while acting as interim president, including the launch of a new mobile application.

GUILDERLAND — Erika Gauthier has been named president of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce.

Gauthier has been acting as the interim president since October, when Kathy Burbank stepped down to become the executive director of Community Caregivers.

“I am happy I get to continue my work through some new initiatives we have been working on the last few months,” said Gauthier.

Before becoming the acting president of the chamber, Gauthier was the program and membership manager, a position she had held since 2009.

She previously worked with the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, and the Guilderland Public Library. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and public relations from the State University of New York College at Oswego and is currently obtaining her master’s degree in business administration from Excelsior College.

Gauthier said the big push in the chamber right now is to step up its technological aspects.

“We just started a Google Indoor Maps partnership, so people can virtually go inside a business and see what it’s like,” she said.

The chamber also recently launched a mobile application, still in the testing phase, which will allow people to electronically respond to events, access members, and explore member-to-member discounts.

“We’re going to play with it a little bit more,” said Gauthier. “There are lots of options.”

Membership has gone down, she said, but noted that declining membership was an issue for all chambers, across the county.

“We are all trying to reinvent ourselves and find new and better ways to help our members,” Gauthier said.

The Guilderland Chamber currently has about 500 member businesses.

One reason for the decline could be related to the Affordable Care Act preventing the chamber from providing health insurance to small businesses, but, Gauthier said, the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce still has it’s ACA navigator grant, allowing it to assist businesses and individuals with enrollment.

“Open enrollment is closed, but people can still enroll if they have a qualifying event,” she said.

Gauthier also said that, while membership hasn’t been growing, she believes the members who have stuck with the chamber for as long as they have will remain members for years to come.

“Most people don’t see the value in face-to-face networking anymore,” said Gauthier. “We’re trying to lure younger, start-up businesses in by improving our technology.”

One of Gauthier’s first actions as chamber president was to announce the 2014 Town and Chamber award recipients.

Winners were nominated by community and chamber members and selected by a committee consisting of town officials, chamber members, and the chamber’s annual dinner committee.

The Town Beautification Award Winners are:

  • The Westmere Fire Department, for best overall remodel of the new firehouse;
  • Tractor Supply Company for new construction;
  • The Recovery Sports Grill for best renovation;
  • Dave and Busters for “worth a tour”; and
  • M&T Bank with a special Green Award for its new, energy-efficient building.

The Chamber Award Winners are:

  • Brian Clark, of the UPS Store, for Small Business Person of the Year;
  • Lisa Giruzzi, of Transformational Conversations, for the Chamber Champion Award, for her tireless support of the Guilderland Chamber;
  • Sports and Spinal Wellness Center for the Best Place to Work;
  • Troy Miller, of CM Fox Realty, for the Award of Merit; and
  • The Lynnwood Elementary Parent Teacher Association, for a special Community Project Award, for its new playground.

The awards will be presented at a dinner on June 11 at the Pinehaven Country Club.

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