HOULTON, Maine — With the economy in the tank, not many businesses are expanding right now.
But one Houlton organization that gives businesses a helping hand is growing, and officials with the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce are hoping the trend will continue throughout this summer.
Chamber Executive Director Lori Weston said Wednesday that the organization’s membership is now up to 234, an increase of nearly 100 businesses since Weston first took the helm in 2006.
Weston said that despite the tough economy, the Chamber has seen a growth in attendance at its events as well.
“The [Southern Aroostook] Trade Show was our best yet,” she said. “Our annual dinner also was very successful. It has been a very good start to the year for us.”
The trade show was held April 4-5 at the Millar Civic Center.
Weston said there are a number of reasons why she feels the Chamber has seen such growth.
“The role of the Chamber is much greater now, and we realize that,” she said. “We realize that people need big reasons to come to town now as the economy suffers. So we have scheduled more events and we are finding even more ways to promote these events and our businesses through group advertising and other means.”
Weston added that the Chamber is doing everything it can to market not only its businesses, but also the town.
She noted that the Chamber was going to continue with new promotions as the weather improves.
One such planned event, she said, is being sculpted to bring the downtown back to life on Friday evenings.
“Back in the early days, the town came to life on Friday nights,” said Weston. “We want to see that happen again.”
One of the ways the Chamber is looking to do that is through “First Fridays.”
Weston said the initiative will have stores stay open later on Friday evenings so that shoppers can get there after work.
“This will allow people who work all day the chance to get in some shopping after they get out of work,” she explained.
Plans also call for a summer community market where people can find produce and crafts along with other events.
“It should be an exciting summer,” Weston said Wednesday.