N o idea is too outlandish for the new president of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce if it attracts new business.
“No idea is crazy. You have to think outside the box, not in it,” said Dana Grant.
Grant, who has previously served on the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce, most recently as vice president, was chosen as its new president earlier this month and brings plenty of energy and ideas.
“We have a very good, business-minded board and we’re going to try and get business any way we can,” he said.
A sales and marketing professional for Adirondack Natural Stone, Grant says one of the keys to revitalizing Whitehall is reshaping the community’s image.
“As a community we don’t have a good name. There’s this negative connotation and that needs to change for business to come,” Grant said.
He said the Chamber and the village have made strides during the past two years toward changing the community’s image. He said projects, like last month’s push to decorate for the holidays, make the community appear more welcoming, but said one of the biggest obstacles to fostering continued growth is taxes.
“We need to fix the tax base,” he said. “There are people who are afraid to make improvements to their homes or businesses because of taxes.”
He said the key to improving the tax base is to bring in new business, but the village and town need to be open to the idea of providing tax incentives to encourage new enterprise.
He also says the community has to focus on what it has and not what’s missing.
“Many things have left, but the beauty is still here. We have to capitalize on what we do have. There are some great businesses here. We have many things that are noteworthy.”
He said the reality is Whitehall will never be the thriving community whose economy was once buoyed by commercial traffic along the railroad and the Champlain Canal, but it can prosper if people focus on the right kinds of businesses.
“We need to look at businesses that rely on traffic count. We need things that work with passersby,” Grant said.
To that end, the Chamber is working with Tori Riley, head of the Washington County Local Development Corporation on organizing an inventory of all vacant land that is for sale or lease that would be available for businesses seeking a foothold in the area.
In order to achieve some of his goals, Grant wants to work collaboratively with local municipalities as well as organizations within the community.
“We need to work together as a unit. There are lots of great organizations in Whitehall but we don’t have much unity as a community,” he said. “We need communication at all levels.”
He’d like to revive the Junior Chamber and get the area’s kids more involved because as he puts it, “their ideas are the next businesses.”
He also plans to reach out to people in other communities who have been successful in fostering growth, and work to duplicate their success.
And he wants to hear from people who have connections to business or simply have ideas.
“We’re not going to take no for an answer. We’re going to focus on one thing and then move to the next goal,” Grant said. “I’m excited. I think I can get people together.”