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      Albany Chamber of Commerce sees future in small business, tourism

      The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated their 101st year at their 2011 Annual Meeting Thursday night. They also celebrated things to come for Albany.

      Our future is very bright despite what we're feeling right now and hearing right now, says Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Catherine Glover.

      The talk was all about Albany business and tourism. Glover says business in Albany is taking a new spin on and old focus: the mom and pops.

      I don't see any new manufacturing coming anytime soon with the economy the way it is, says Judy Randle, 2011 Chairman of the Board.

      Glover says 85% of the 1,200 companies the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce represents are small businesses, with 85% of them having fewer than 10 employees.

      Industry is great and we need them; we need the big guys. But what has sustained our country for 200 years and then some is the small business, says Glover. It's entrepreneurialism, it's diversifying our business space, it's counting on the mom and pops to take a little bit of a risk this year and invest in their business.

      Randle, a small business owner herself, says she she TMs economic growth coming from small businesses hiring people.

      Chamber members say this is the year for small business. They TMre even using them to help local college students with a new educational program, Compass.

      We hook up ASU (Albany State University) students with skills, savvy, knowledge, with businesses and business owners. They go into their place of business and help them with basic business planning, marketing strategies, whatever is needed, says Glover.

      Chamber members are also expecting big things with Albany tourism in 2011.

      The Convention and Visitors Bureau is now a Certified Convention of Visitors Bureau for the state. Glover says the visitors center is taking a heads and beds approach: Turning over the beds, getting people to stay in the city, and therefore, encouraging people to spend money locally every night they stay.

      Albany received a Certified Camera Ready Community Award by the Georgia Production Partners.

      We are ready in the eyes of the state to host any filmmaker from anywhere in the world and to get the job done, says Glover.

      Chamber members say to expect plenty of networking opportunities this year as well.