DENHAM SPRINGS — The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce will soon have a new home — one that will make it easier for the nonprofit agency to serve businesses in the community.
The chamber broke ground June 20 for the 1,000-square-foot addition to a building they purchased last year at 248 Veterans Boulevard, Denham Springs.
“We need stability,” chamber president and CEO April Wehrs said about the chamber’s decision to relocate. Wehrs said the chamber rents a building owned by the city of Denham Springs and is engaged in a year-to-year lease. The chamber also shares that space at 133 Hummell St., Denham Springs, with the Arts Council of Livingston Parish.
Wehrs said the chamber is ready to have a permanent home with more space, including a larger conference room, offices for additional staff, training rooms and a hospitality area designed to give businesses a place to display products or information.
The new building will feature outdoor space for members, and a place for commuting members to charge cellphones or set up lap tops, Wehr said.
The bottom line is that with more than 500 members representing more than 20,000 employees, we’re busting at the seams, Wehrs said.
The chamber holds more than seven committee meetings a month, some of which are held off site, including board of directors meetings. Wehrs said the current conference room isn’t adequate to house the 24-member board.
“The first thing a chamber has to have is a place to conduct day-to-day operations,” Wehrs said.
The chamber purchased the new building on Dec. 27, 2013, from Real Estate Investment, Inc. — a company owned by Michael and Terri Kabel — for $246,000, and will pay $125,000 for renovations, Wehrs said.
The chamber purchased the new building and will pay for the renovations with a line of credit provided by First Guaranty Bank, Wehrs said.
Just this week, dirt was spread and concrete poured for the addition, and Wehrs said she expects the chamber will move to its new location by the end of 2014.
The chamber has flourished since Wehrs took over the helm in 2011, and membership is at an all-time high, said Chairman of the Board Kim Sanders. Since taking over, Wehrs’ focus has been to increase membership, communicate with area businesses and their customers, and expand the number and variety of events offered to area businesses, such as Chamber After Hours, Sanders said.
To help pay for the new building, Wehrs said, the chamber worked with “bare bones staff and cut back on expenses” for several years.
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To learn about the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce, visit www.livingstonparishchamber.org.