The new Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce president, Doug Croft, has been engaged the last five months acclimating himself to the needs of Lincoln County’s small businesses. He’s been connecting with key business leaders and small business owners and asking questions to gather collective trends.
While he’s spent the bulk of his career in North Carolina, Croft was last working in Weslaco, Texas. He was with the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce for just over 25 years.
“I’ve spent right at 30 years as a chamber executive,” he said. “I had a good track record in Thomasville and even though my time in Weslaco was only a few years, it was a nice community and I enjoyed it.”
Croft said that he was happy to have the opportunity to move back to North Carolina to be closer to family.
“I had a little knowledge of the community (Lincoln County),” he said. “I lived and worked here about 30 years ago, before I got into the chamber industry.”
In addition, Croft brought some people from Thomasville and Davis County to Lincoln County about five years ago in an effort to show them the value of investing in business parks.
“I was flabbergasted, in a positive way, at the business parks that had been built since I’d been here,” he said. “What it showed me that there had certainly been some leadership, foresight and investment which was an indication of a community wanting to move forward.”
Croft was also acquainted with both the former chamber president, Ken Kindley, as well as the search firm engaged in searching for a new president when Kindley announced his retirement. He was aware of the position being open and said that he initially asked about it more in conversation rather than pursuing it but it all worked out.
“I see a great passion in the citizens in Lincoln County and that there is positive momentum toward small business growth, especially in the downtown Lincolnton area,” Croft said. “I also don’t think the growth on the eastern side of the county is going to stop.”
Understandably, Croft has both short and long-term goals in his new role. While each chamber is different, basically there’s a generic mission.
“In general, a chamber’s mission is to me in two parts,” he said. “Some people reference the economy first and quality of life second, but it doesn’t matter to me. My view is that whatever it is that’s important to our quality of life, be it good shopping, farmland, good roads, transportation, schools or cultural arts, it all has some cost so you have to have a strong economy with money circulating within your community to afford and enhance your quality of life.”
Croft summarized that a strong business community that’s producing and bringing in revenue in the community is the mission of most chambers.
“I’m still feeling my way through how this chamber has been engaged in things,” he said. “We’re currently helping to grow small businesses by coaching, counseling, seminars and workshops on small business related issues. One of my goals is to expand that significantly.”
Because he’s new and not biased by anything that may have been going on in the community, Croft said that he’s taking advantage of that to solicit information and get the feedback he’ll use to improve the chamber’s efficacy in the small business community.
“I’d like to work toward a formal strategic plan after I’ve been here over a year,” he said “I do think by the fall I’ll be sitting down with my board with a mini strategic plan and see where we are. I know how I got things done in Thomasville, and I did it pretty well, and some of those might come with me but I need to know the personalities and trends within this community.”