By SHELLY WILKISON
The new Chairman of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce believes his organization is on the right track for growth after years of ups and downs.
Bob Calvisi, who was appointed in August by the Chamber’s Board of Directors to serve as Chairman after the resignation of longtime chair David Pope, said the organization is focused on providing tools to help its members be more successful in business.
He said in the past, the Chamber has tried to take on too many projects and assume too many roles in the community.
“Typically, when we want to do too much too soon, we fail at everything and things collapse,” said Calvisi. “We’re choosing to focus on a couple of items — communication with our members and growing the volunteer organization.”
Calvisi, who is retired and working part-time as a retail merchandiser in sales, has a background as a health insurance administrator that spans 30 years. He has lived in Williamson County 28 years and moved to Liberty Hill in July 2011.
He said he became active in the Liberty Hill Chamber last year while serving as treasurer of the Williamson County Human Resource Management Association. As part of WCHRMA outreach, board members joined Chambers of Commerce throughout Central Texas. He joined the local Chamber in 2011 and quickly found himself serving in leadership roles.
“I think my strength is that I’m a good facilitator of people,” he said. “I get people to communicate and work as a team to set and meet realistic goals. If we can accomplish our goals within the next 12-18 months, we’ll do well and I’ll be happy.”
After taking the summer off, the Chamber held its first membership meeting of the fall under Calvisi’s leadership on Sept. 18. He said the Chamber has about 80 members now and his goal is to grow to 100 within six months.
“The ideal goal is to have every business in the area represented,” he said. “I’d like to get to 100 in six months and I think that’s doable. We know it (membership) will grow as new business comes here.”
While many in the community have had different ideas over the years about the role of the Chamber, Calvisi said there should be no confusion.
“We represent our member investors in trying to help them succeed in business. By doing that, we also outreach to the community,” he said. “The Chamber is a non-profit organization, we’re not political, and what we do is designed to benefit the members within a geographic territory of the (Liberty Hill) school district.”
He said the suggestion that the Chamber should be doing something to attract new business to Liberty Hill is unrealistic.
“Attracting new business is a function of the city and its economic development committee,” he said. “We can participate and we have ideas on how to present the city in a favorable way, but bringing in new business is not our mission.”
Calvisi said he and Valerie Zapien, the Chamber’s volunteer executive director, have met with Mayor Jamie Williamson and Council member Vicki Brewer.
“We are trying to interface with the City of Liberty Hill more than we’ve done in the past,” he said.
He said the Mayor had encouraged Mrs. Zapien to retract her resignation from the Board of Directors of the City’s Economic Development Corp. Representing the Chamber on the EDC Board, Mrs. Zapien submitted her resignation from the appointed position in late August.
“We have put our toe in the water (through representation on the EDC) to see if we can help business development,” Calvisi said.
Calvisi said that while the Chamber has been in existence for some time, it is “still in the infant stage. We need to grow because with more members, we will have a budget to do additional things.”
He said the Board has created various committees to explore different areas of service. For Calvisi, education is a top priority. He said the Chamber has a responsibility to educate business members about issues that impact them.
In addition to monthly luncheons where speakers are invited regularly to discuss various topics of interest, the Chamber also communicates via email and its website.
“We are a volunteer organization and our time is limited, so we have to manage our projects and work within our goals,” he said. “If we deliver on what we promise, people will talk about the Chamber as a value-added experience.”
He said some of the benefits of Chamber membership include advertising on the organization’s website, networking opportunities to help business leaders develop new relationships and new clients, as well as business referrals.
This fall, the Chamber is playing a leadership role in organizing the Liberty Hill Christmas Festival. Mrs. Zapien is representing the Chamber on an organizating committee and is volunteering time and resources to plan the much-anticipated community event. The Festival is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 2.
Calvisi said the Chamber’s involvement in the Christmas Festival is a result of member interest.
“What we get involved in (community events) depends on the interest of our membership,” he said.
Calvisi said the Chamber has been without an office home since the City needed its former space at City Hall to make room for a City Manager last year. While the Manager has since resigned, the space is now occupied by the Mayor.
Calvisi said finding office space that would be manned by either paid or volunteer help is still on the list of priorities.
In the meantime, the Chamber Board meets the first Friday of each month at the Community Resource Center inside the San Gabriel Crossing apartment complex.
Monthly membership luncheons are typically scheduled on the third Tuesday of each month.
Chamber membership dues range from $100-$500.