PUBLISHED: 4:27 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Juneau Chamber of Commerce CEO looks for communities to work together
A brief on business with five questions
Cathie Roemmich is the CEO of Juneau Chamber of Commerce, which states its missions as supporting economic diversity, encouraging entrepreneurship and endorsing responsible, sustainable development to maintain Juneau's high quality of life while advocating economic vitality for all of Southeast Alaska. Before coming to Juneau, Roemmich raised her two children in Sitka and also lived in Ketchikan. She appointed earlier this year by Gov. Sarah Palin to the Marine Transportation Advisory Board. Here are her answers to five questions asked by Capital City Weekly.

What are challenges Juneau businesses are facing?

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Cathie Roemmich is the CEO of Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
Right now we're at a point where our economy needs to be boosted. We're losing our young people and that hurts business, but we can't always fill the entry-level positions. It's very expensive to have a business when you look at health care costs. We also need to work real hard to keep our capitol here in Juneau. Businesses are aware of that and what that would mean. It's always kind of hanging over us. We need to work together to keep our community a strong capital city.

What are the benefits of joining the chamber?

The Juneau Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization of business and professional men and women who have joined together for the promoting the civic, commercial and industrial progress of our community. Our primary goal is to make this community a great place to live, work and raise our families. We support development that is ecology friendly to our community. If we don't have jobs for our young people starting out, they're going to leave. The interior is growing leaps and bounds right now; we're not. We've got to fight to keep what we have here and to enhance and promote responsible development is really important.

Right now what we seem to be fighting in Southeast Alaska is the environmental issues. We believe in responsible development. Right now we have a couple of projects that are responsibly planned and permitted that are being brought to a halt. That's what the chamber works on too, is getting education out there for people and helping to keep a healthy community.

How can businesses work together to keep a skilledworkforce here?

Networking. For example, we had an opening for an executive assistant and for some reason I went several weeks without getting anybody to respond to our ad. I put it in our newsletter, and all of a sudden I got five or six resumes. I did hire somebody and I contacted the other ones that applied and asked them if I could share their information. One of the people of that group has already gotten a job just from putting it out there.

I think the people looking for jobs are feeling the same as the people trying to fill the jobs. We just have to find a way to hook up together. That's where newsletters. It's a community effort. It takes a village to build a business and work together. That's what the chamber stands for, a community effort.

What kind of events does the chamber conduct?

We do a weekly luncheon where we provide some kind of educational program that is related to business. We also have our After Hours event, and we'll work together with a particular business member where you go after work. It's just a fun time to relax, to share ideas with businesses and to get to know each other.

We had a booth at Gold Rush Days, and we've sold corn there for 17 years. That's fun. It's a good place to socialize and just be out there in the community. Just by making our presence out there and we try to promote our members in the community. We get calls from all over the United States daily, and we send relocation packets to those looking into coming to Juneau.

We're funded solely by membership so what we do are in those means. We have right around 350 members, and we'd like to have a lot more because it's a good group.

How do the chambers of Southeast Alaska worktogether?

When I started working for the chamber as CEO here in Juneau, I thought there should be a networking with all of SE Alaska's chambers. Then the Alaska State Chamber has a convention where all the businesses of Alaska and chambers attend. We decided we should have a meeting at least a couple of times a year so we could become a more united United stated. Alaska right now, we are the last frontier, but we're kind of a target right now federally.

There are a lot of issues that are coming up nationally and we need to work together as a group. Our communities are so far apart that we have tended to think of ourselves and just our community.

What we're trying to do is bring all of our communities together and think together as a whole rather than separately. We met in Anchorage in May and had 26 chambers. Southeast Alaska I believe has become closer. We're working together closer now, and we have our sister communities in the interior and we call each other. We do touch base with each other. We're happy to share information with each other because it's all for the common good. We are one whole state, not a bunch of different communities.

Editor's note: Capital City Weekly will each week feature a business or organizational leader to answer five questions. To send suggestions for interviewees, send e-mail to Amanda Gragertat