LAFAYETTE, NJ - The Sussex County Chamber of Commerce hosted its monthly breakfast this past week, at The Lafayette House in Olde Lafayette Village. Highlands State Bank was the breakfast sponsor.
It was the first breakfast following the chamber's inaugural dinner last month.
Sussex County Chamber of Commerce's President, Tammie Horsfield, introduced the chamber's new chairman of the board of trustees, Robert B. Nicholson, III, to the crowd of 238 guests there, asking him for a few remarks.
Nicholson suggested each guest bring a guest to next month's breakfast.
"If everyone introduced the chamber to a new member, what a great chamber we would be," said Nicholson.
Horsfield returned to the podium, and introduced the chamber's new receptionist/secretary, Dawn Fritsch. She also reminded members the chamber annual awards dinner is March 28, and, to submit their nominations. Horsfield also highlighted several other upcoming events for the chamber, the Sussex County Family Fest on May 4, and, asked members to also mark their calendars for Sept. 22, and the Champion of the Grill competition. Both of these widely attended events, are additionally strong opportunities for chamber members to introduce their businesses to the public.
"We're looking forward to having fun with the competition," said Horsfield.
Local chefs create grilled items for attendees to sample, and can win prizes for their barbecued creations. The public annually flocks to this event, at no cost to them.
"It's not so hard to taste some good food for free," smiled Horsfield.
Horsfield welcomed some of the new members including: Ameriprise Financial, Concept 2 Reality, Deacon Homes Inc, Homestead Rehabilitation and Health, New Jersey American Water, Roberta's Jewelers, Sparta Avenue Stage LLC, Tish Leizens Media, and Workplace Benefits.
She reminded new members of the upcoming meet and greet, for new members, and, that the membership committee is there to help with anything they may need assistance with.
The chamber has a monthly wellness theme, and, with February including Valentine's Day, each attendee received some wellness tips with the health benefits of some "romantic" foods, as well as a packet of dark hot chocolate, to enjoy.
Next, Steven Ackmann, President and COO of Highlands State Bank, was the speaker. He explained the bank started in 2005 in Vernon, and then a couple of years later, merged with Noble Bank, and now has a location in Sparta. There is a third location in Sparta.
The industry has changed so drastically, that in 2005, 160 new banks chartered, and in 2012, there were no new banks chartered, he said.
"It's one of the worst economic environments this country has seen in decades," Ackmann said.
Highlands State Bank has three branches, Vernon, Sparta, and Totowa, with over $2 million in assets.
He said things are looking up, and, although mortgages doled out from banks were slashed over the past few years, lending is picking up.
Highlands Bank is also changing drastically, moving with the way that people are doing business. Ackmann asked members of the audience various questions about how they bank. If they have visited a branch in the last 30 days, used an ATM, banked by Internet, used mobile banking and more.
"People are doing transactions in a lot of different ways," he said.
He said Highlands Bank has a strong mobile banking product.
In sum, Ackmann said, "We're really proud of our Sussex County roots, and helping people in Sussex County to grow and prosper."
There were two other speakers at the breakfast, CP Engineers, and Mugs Media.
Ray Roggero spoke about how CP Engineers was formed. He personally had worked as a CEO for a regulatory firm in Morris County, and, also worked in France.
However, he wanted to shift gears, and met with Joe Toscano, and Stan Puszcz.
"We got together to do business we wanted, with our core principles," said Roggero. "We all worked for companies where our visions didn't line up. We wanted to have an impact on the communities we live in."
Municipal engineering, water, wastewater, and landfill designs, are among some of the areas CP Engineering covers.
Jerry Morelli, who has been reporting about Sussex County high school sports for years, started Mugs Media in 1993. He explained members can advertise on his program, and named some of Mugs Media's advertisers including: Franklin Sussex Auto Mall, Eastern Propane, Newton Medical Center, Thorlabs, and Selective Insurance. He said his firm can also help with political advertising.
"We do half-hour spots for some of our clients," he said, noting some of his clients have their own shows.
"We're a full-service video production company," Morelli said. "You'll be amazed by the cost of it."
He said with small businesses, Mugs Media can work within their budgets.
The next chamber event is business after hours on Feb. 28 at Down to the Bone Barbecue & Company. Click here for more information about the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, and the benefits the chamber offers its members. .
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