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Massena Chamber of Commerce names new director

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MASSENA - A local marketing specialist who has experience in tourism initiatives and has worked closely with local businesses has been named the new director of the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.

Kathleen Kelly-Ori, the owner of Stellar Marketing Services, will begin her duties as chamber director on Feb. 3.

Although Ms. Kelly-Ori will be working full-time, it will be a “transitional administration,” chamber board President Miriam S. Catapano said.

“In a sense, it’s going to be a couple of years,” she said. “It’s almost like succession planning. There comes a time when you bring somebody on with their wonderful expertise and they will train a new director.”

“It’s like a bridge,” Ms. Kelly-Ori said.

Ms. Catapano said Ms. Kelly-Ori’s experience was a perfect fit for the director’s position at the chamber.

“She’s involved in things and she knows people. It is absolutely a wonderful thing to happen to the chamber,” she said.

Ms. Kelly-Ori will focus on building relationships with chamber members. She’ll also work with Associate Director Penny Pullmain on other chamber activities.

“I think it’s going to be good,” Ms. Pullmain said. “I think we have someone who has ideas, is familiar with the community, is known in the community and has contacts. That’s a positive for us.”

“It should be a dynamic team,” Ms. Catapano said.

Ms. Kelly-Ori’s resume includes time on the Cortland and Onondaga chamber boards and 23 years in the hospitality and tourism industry. She has also been a public relations point of contact for both youth and adult fishing tournaments staged in the north country, including two world championships in 2005 and 2011, and is the public relations chairperson for the Massena Downtown Coalition.

She said she wants to work with the chamber’s membership to find out what they can do better and how they can better serve the businesses. She’ll also be asking businesses that aren’t chamber members to consider joining the organization.

Tourism will be part that effort, she said, including bringing visitors to Massena to shop, dine or stay in one of the local hotels and motels. She said she wants people to “look at Massena as a destination,” an effort that will need to include a coalition of chamber members.

The focus on member businesses will be a change of direction for the chamber, according to Ms. Catapano and Ms. Kelly-Ori, but it’s a change that board members have agreed to, they said.

“The board had to decide what kind of change. We’ll get back to the basics and serve members,” Ms. Catapano said.

That doesn’t mean the chamber will be out of the event business though. Some of those such as the Harvest Festival are presented for the benefit of the community, while others such as the annual Heritage Festival are money-makers for the chamber. They also promote tourism to Massena.

“We still have to have certain types of events, but we also have to service the community. Our primary goal is to take care of our members. We need to give members a place where businesses can come together and talk,” Ms. Catapano said.

The chamber has been without a director since Connie Jenkins tendered her resignation on Dec. 13 to accept another position in Malone. She had started work on Dec. 2. The previous chamber director was Michael J. Gleason, who had started on Oct. 15, 2007 and was fired in July 2013.

Ms. Pullmain has been handling the day-to-day operations at the chamber office with the assistance of chamber board members.

“I want to thank Miriam and Penny for really keeping the boat on an even course,” Ms. Kelly-Ori said.

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