By Justin Swanson | LB Indy
The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce more than doubled its membership last year and expects to continue growing with the addition of new programs, its president said this week.
Longtime resident, accountant Michael Kinsman, will be installed for his second term as president of the chamber at the sold-out annual Spirit of Laguna Awards tonight. A senior professor at Pepperdine University where he teaches finance, accounting and business policy, Kinsman is also a partner with his wife, Cheryl, a former council member, at the Laguna Beach accounting firm Kinsman and Kinsman.
“We worked very hard asking people to join and demonstrating our value,” he said of 2012.
Such demonstrations included Chamber-sponsored classes teaching social media, business planning, consulting and the quarterly “Open For Business” seminar that allows potential business owners to consider the opportunity of opening a business in Laguna.
“We had record attendance at every event but two,” said Kristine Thalman, executive director. Thalman counts a perfect storm of reasons for the growth, including a sense of optimism by business owners and a “buzz around town” indicating that it is a good time to set up shop.
The organization’s goal is to increase its membership to 500 strong, better its social media presence, and to more acutely advocate for its business members, Thalman said. At the same time, the Chamber intends to offer a greater variety of seminars, she said.
Its “Next Gen group,” primarily comprised of young professionals with an interest in civic issues, is a voice that is less heard, so the Chamber means to actively engage and encourage them, Thalman said.
“The emphasis is on involvement,” explains Aaron Talarico, 32, a Chamber board member and liaison to the “Next Gen” group. “It’s people who care about Laguna and who are most into promoting business in the city.”
One of the group’s assets coincides with one of the Chamber’s goals: wrangling, managing, and executing social media forums productively.
Kinsman describes the Next Gen initiative as the Chamber’s response to “a weak bench,” even though he thinks the board that takes office this week is the strongest since he joined three years ago.
There are changes among the Chamber’s personnel as well. Thalman will work part-time as she welcomes a grandchild. Vice-president Michael Beck will not rejoin the chamber, though he will serve as a senior advisor. Kate Buckley, who runs lagunabeach.com, will be joining in his stead.