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Brown Baggin’ It- Chamber of Commerce Style

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By moboyle, on July 11, 2011

Casey Steinbacher was nothing like I expected.

When I heard we were having a brown bag lunch with the CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, a picture of a stereotypical businesswoman flashed in my mind.  I envisioned a woman in a sharp, sensible suit yammering on her cellphone, her hair pulled back in a severely tight bun.  I imagined the other interns and I could learn a lot from this woman but that she’d be too busy to give us her undivided attention.  My stereotype didn’t hold true.

Casey Steinbacher with Chris Carmody, Green Plus Executive Director

Ms. Steinbacher—or Casey, as she asked us to call her—turned out to be as entertaining and open as she was knowledgeable.  She came into the conference room, all smiles, and greeted the BCF staff, most of whom she seemed to know by name.

As we unwrapped our sandwiches and started in on lunch, Casey told us about herself.  In addition to her work with the Chamber, Casey helped found the Institute for Sustainable Development and Green Plus (so you could say that I wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for her).  She also serves as chair of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

I was most intrigued by Casey’s progressive attitude about the Chamber’s role in helping its members.  Before the recession, the Chamber hosted various speakers and networking events for its members, which was one of the primary benefits of membership.  However, after the recession, business leaders didn’t want to spend time and money on events that might set them up with potential partners and clients.  They wanted more assurance that membership with the Chamber would pay off.

So the chamber decided to focus on “direct connections.”  Instead of holding networking events, Chamber leaders would take the time to connect organizations to potential partners one at a time.

For example, Casey helped connect Riley Life, the first Green Plus certified organization, with Burt’s Bees.  Riley Life, a packaging company that strives to reduce its ecological footprint, was a natural partner for Burt’s Bees, an organization that is committed to selling earth friendly products.  Riley Life now packages Burt’s Bees products, which benefits both companies.  The Durham Chamber made over 1,500 connections like this last year.  “It takes a lot of time and energy,” Casey said, “but it makes a big difference and attracts new members.”

For more information on the Durham Chamber of Commerce, click here.  If you’d like to learn more about Casey, you can follow her on twitter.

Thanks for reading!

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