Business

Chamber's new director wants to exploit Internet

"The new director of the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce says she wants to give local businesses a strong cyberspace presence.E-commerce is the future of retail, Priscilla Heidecker said Thursday, and a perfect fit for the predominantly small businesses that have set up shop in the isolation of Whidbey Island.Heidecker, a local woman, started work Monday amid the holiday season clutter at the downtown chamber office. She replaced Tamra Sipes, who acted as interim director for several months.Before Sipes, the Chamber went through three different directors in just three years. Although she’s just starting to break into the new job, Heidecker said she’s here for the long haul.Stability in the business community, along with new ideas, seems especially important at the turn of the millennium. “The community is starting to come together and it’s a good time to become involved,” she said, pointing to several on-going community projects, committees and a new energy towards downtown revitalization.Local Attorney Mike Hansen, a member of the chamber board, said the candidates went through a rigorous interviewing process and he’s happy to have Heidecker aboard. He said he’s impressed by her background in both business and teaching, her education, her experience in the corporate world, and her “likeable personality.”“She struck me as someone with a high level of energy,” he said. “She is someone who will make things happen.”Chamber Chairman Tony Steadman could not be reached for comment.As the director, Heidecker said she’ll also urge businesses to plan for the future and educate them on how to do that.Before taking the director’s job, Heidecker worked as the personnel director for the Salish Trust in Anacortes. Before that, she was the general manager for an Internet provider in San Diego.That company set up an online commerce center that became one of the first of its kind in the world. “We learned as it happened,” she said.Of course, today shopping over the Internet is big business. With the success of companies like Amazon.com, many other major companies are now jumping on the e-bandwagon.But the companies with the most to gain from Internet commerce, Heidecker said, are small, unique businesses — which is something North Whidbey Island has in abundance. Not only can businesses sell products over the Net, but Heidecker said a good Web site can be a powerful marketing and customer service tool.“E-commerce, direct mailing and a retail presence is what’s going to take the small business into the future,” she said.For her first major project as director, Heidecker said she’s going to revise and update the chamber’s Web site."

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