It doesn’s much matter which direction you’re traveling on I-85 or I-40, or whether you’re living and/or working in Burlington, Graham or Mebane, when you’re within the borders of Alamance County, you’re in a region that sees growth opportunities in its past and its future.
And if Reagan Gural can have anything to do with it, she’s going to make sure the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce plays a big part in growing the opportunities and developing role players within the county in all directions.
“I get excited about the leadership potential in Alamance County and I think we have a lot of innovative leaders who are settling in and finding a way to move Alamance County boldly into the future,” said Gural, who is president and CEO of the chamber. “I get really excited about that. And I hope that I’m one of those leaders. I have a great passion for this community and I see so much potential, and I think that I have partners out there who also see that.”
Gural sat down with the Mebane Enterprise to talk about the chamber’s role in attracting big and small businesses to the area, and how it’s hoping to strengthen it’s presence in Mebane.
MEBANE ENTERPRISE: How long have you been with the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce?
REAGAN GURAL: I’m working on my 13th year at the chamber. So, I arrived in 2011 as the vice president of membership development.
ME: How long have you been in the area?
RG: I moved to Alamance in 2003. I’m a graduate of Alamance Community College. Back then, online classes were still new, so I took night courses and worked during the day. It was interesting, going to school for business administration at night and being able to apply what I was learning during the day. I think it worked for me.
ME: If I’m a small-business owner, what does being a member of the chamber do for me?
RG: It depends on what you need. We have staff that have spent a lot of time learning the ecosystem, if you will, in Alamance County. So, what resources are there in our community that already exist? How do we make sure our small businesses are connected with the ones that they need? Also, from a regional perspective, there are resources available. We’re making sure we know what all those are and how our businesses get connected with them. We provide one-on-one support. We spend a lot of time talking with small businesses to understand their needs, what are their pain points. The chamber is not here to be everything for everyone, because we have a great small business center at Alamance Community College that can also provide support and assistance. We have great support from the SBTDC (Small Business and Technology Development Center), which is a regional organization that can support small businesses. Brand recognition is something that the chamber can help a small business with. We’re spending some time developing online, short webinars for things like marketing that a small business often is unable to employ a full time person to do that. It’s things like that that the Alamance Chamnber is learning every day, what businesses need and trying to either find what already exists or create programming that can support them. And then just putting putting people together.
ME: And if I’m representing a large business or company?
RG: So for companies that are looking at Alamance County as a potential site, whether it’s for a new location or an expansion that the company is doing, the chamber replies to those inquiries. If they’re coming through the state, we reply to them. For projects that are at the point where they want to do a site visit, we coordinate those including our public partners, and developers. We were very hands-on in providing economic development services to bring in Walmart and Sheetz distribution. And with the creation of North Carolina Commerce Park.
ME: Alamance County, particularly around Mebane, has enjoyed a lot of success in attracting larger companies. Why do you think that is the case?
RG: We’re very lucky here in Alamance County that we have a harmonious economic development team. We all work together really well and understand our roles.
ME: What’s the primary need of companies looking in this area?
RG: We spend a lot of time talking about work force development. That’s the number one thing companies that are already here need help with.
ME: What’s your favorite thing about Mebane?
RG: The charm. I love being in Mebane. We came down and walked around Clay Street. We went over to the train display, and then ended our day at Bright Penny. How can you not just love the charm? And Bright Penny is an incredible investor in the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce. They’re active, they’re engaged, which we love. And every time I go there, I see a table of folks from one of the area’s large industries. That’s this community. There’s this big industry engaging with the small business.