Make Plans Now for the 2014 Chamber Ball

Posted by Bill Miles on December 9th, 2013

The Gatsby era was a magical time.  There was a certain spirit of celebration in the 20′s that probably hasn’t been matched since…until now.

The Chamber Ball comes complete with a Gatsby theme this year and those of you who have been to the gala know that it’s not only an incredible night of dining, dancing and entertainment, it’s also the night we pay tribute to the best and brightest in our community.  It’s an evening not to be missed.

Many of you have already called to reserve your seats before the invitations were out last week.  This year we are proud to welcome as our Gatsby gala’s presenting partner and newest corporate citizen in the Lowcountry, Kroger/Shelter Cove Town Centre/Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial.  We’re pleased to have them join us for the January 11th event.

At the ball we will be recognizing the Zonta Woman of the Year, The Bluffton Regional Business Council Member of the Year, the Sue West Educator of the Year, the Organization of the Year, and the coveted Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Citizenship award.  The awards presentation is very poignant and delivered via video.  The reaction of each winner is priceless and I’m so glad we have the opportunity in such a large crowd to say thank you to the night’s honorees.

If you have not received an invitation in the mail, but would like to attend, please email Connie Killmar at  Join us for a Gatsby evening of celebration.

Hope your week ahead is a great one!


Networking and Business Opportunities this Fall

Posted by Bill Miles on August 27th, 2013

What a great weekend in the Lowcountry.  Was that August?  It sure didn’t feel like August.  Perfect temperatures without the late summer humidity.  Hopefully it’s a sign of the season ahead of us.

Fall is one of the busiest times of the year for your chamber, and this year is no exception:

Building your business this Fall:

September 11th, 10:00-11:00 a.m., Palmetto Electric Cooperative, Hardeeville.  SC Chamber’s Grassroots Meeting – your chance to let our SC legislators in Columbia know what matters to the Lowcountry.

September 19th:  Get out your favorite football jersey, wear your team colors and help us cheer on our newest members at Prime Time!  It’s a mini-expo and bigger than ever Business After Hours.  We’re shining the spotlight on the businesses that joined during our May 7-9th membership event that garnered 180 new members in two days.  Come enjoy some great networking and find out what’s new.

September 18 through October 23: in partnership with SCORE, we’re hosting a small business seminar series offering insight from the experts on everything from writing a business plan to effective marketing for your business.

September 25th: Young Professionals Group at Cork’s in Bluffton

October 17th:  Business After Hours at Bomboras Grille & Chill Bar

October 30th: Young Professionals Group at Cork’s in Bluffton

October’s Don’t Miss Event:  our Annual State of the Region Breakfast.  It’s a cornerstone event in the business community, so join 650 of your colleagues to hear our leaders discuss what’s happening in the Lowcountry and beyond. Dates and details to come.

November 14th: Business After Hours at the Park Lane Hotel & Suites

November’s Don’t Miss event: at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa: Taste of the Season on November 22nd.  Ring in the season with style at one of the community’s premier culinary events.

Get Involved this Fall:

We have a very active group of members involved in a number of areas.  Our Government Affairs Committee, Business Education Partnership Committee and our Bluffton Regional Business Council will all be meeting this fall.


We’ve always been involved and monitored what’s happening in government at the local, state and federal level.   The Grassroots Meeting happening in September, in partnership with the state chamber is a great way to let your voice be heard.

These are just a few examples of the ways your chamber is at work for you. Why do we do it all?  Because you said so.  You’ve told us time and time again in our membership surveys, at events and in numerous conversations that you want to interact with your colleagues and potential customers in the Lowcountry.  That’s exactly what our chamber networking events are designed to do – build your business via relationships that offer exposure and opportunities for your organization.

Let us know how we’re doing.  We get our best ideas from you – our members.  If you have a suggestion on how we can enhance our efforts, or an idea worth sharing, let us know.

Have a great week!


Hilton Head Island Institute

Posted by Bill Miles on July 15th, 2013

Hilton Head Island was founded with some pretty lofty goals.  When it came to fulfilling Charles Fraser’s vision, many said it couldn’t be done.  That’s usually a sign that you’re on the right track.  Most big goals always come attached with those who will give more than a few reasons why an endeavor should be left on the drawing board.  Thankfully, Charles didn’t listen.  Neither did plenty of others when they brought big ideas for the Lowcountry to fruition.

If planners had listened to the naysayers we might not have a Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, RBC Heritage PGA TOUR tournament, a Concours d’Elegance or any number of great events and organizations that thrive in the Lowcountry.  Some of the Island’s resident visionaries are at it again.  The Hilton Head Island Institute and its volunteer leadership have a great idea and they’ve worked hard to make it happen.

It’s called Imagination 2013.  In their words, “a four day ideas festival where attendees will hear thought provoking talks, exchange innovative ideas, imagine a more vibrant and sustainable future for yourself, your family and your community.“  Now that’s an event worth attending.

It’s modeled on successful programs around the country such as the Chautauqua Institute. It’s just the type of innovative, out-of-the-box idea that would excite Charles Fraser and his team who pursued the dream of building a world-class resort many, many years ago.

In true Hilton Head Island fashion, they are coming out of the gates strong with an exciting line up of speakers in their first year including Randi Zuckerberg, founder  of Zuckerberg Media and Facebook pioneer.  Her brother Mark revolutionized how we communicate throughout the world via Facebook and Randi was part of that endeavor.   They have also brought to the table William Paul Young, best-selling author of “The Shack” which has sold over 10 million copies, and Tony Wagner of the Harvard Technology & Entrepreneurship Center.

There are also other Institute events starting next month that offer great insight into what makes this place we call home so unique.  Don’t miss out on some wonderful opportunities to learn and grow thanks to our friends at the Hilton Head Island Institute.

My hat is off to this group of innovators and we wish them great success.


Annual Membership Survey-We want to hear from you!

Posted by Bill Miles on July 8th, 2013

What’s the sentiment in the business community about how the economy is doing?  What are the biggest challenges facing your organization?  When we want to know the answers to these questions and more, we do something very simple, but very important…we ask our members.  Our annual membership survey is designed to take the pulse of the business community.

It’s vital that the chamber have a strong understanding of where the business community stands on important issues and what you need from us to help your business grow. I value the fact that our members are not shy about sharing your opinions either.  We partner with USCB to ensure the random survey is statistically relevant and that we’re asking the right questions in the right way to garner insight about our business community from those who know it best-our members.

In the coming weeks a random sample of our members will be receiving a survey from our research partners at USCB.  Our Business Barometer survey will cover many of the business basics you’re used to seeing in our annual survey, but each quarter, we’ll also be looking into a specific area related to business.  This Business Barometer will ask you to weigh in on environmental sustainability and whether it plays a role in your business planning process.

A recent MIT study showed that the environment matters in corporate America.  Sustainability was a permanent part of 70% of corporate agendas.  Economics and environmental responsibility are often a positive combination.  For example, Coca Cola saved $100 million in a year by simplifying their packaging – good for the environment and good for the bottom line.  We think it’s important to get input from our local business community on how, or if, sustainability plays a role in your business.

Each quarter, our Business Barometer survey will focus on hot topics and issues that matter to business in the Lowcountry.  If you are among the survey recipients, please take a moment to give us your feedback.  Our members set the agenda for our chamber programs and initiatives and we want to continue to offer relevant opportunities for business exposure, networking and educational offerings for our chamber members.

As the voice of the business community, having your feedback is critical.  We appreciate your participation.


Bluffton Branding Charrettes

Posted by Bill Miles on June 24th, 2013

What do 18th century French architecture students have to do with today’s Bluffton?  More than you know when we take a look at the partnership between your chamber, the Town of Bluffton, USCB and community residents and businesses.  We’re hosting a series of charrettes to define what we know as the “Bluffton State of Mind” and what it means for the future of Bluffton and the Lowcountry.

A charrette is a gathering of stakeholders to discuss ideas, plans and concepts.  It comes from the French phrase en charte. French students would work feverishly on deadline with their architectural plans and a literal cart would wheel by to take their plans and drawings for further review.  In today’s terms it’s about the bringing together of thoughts and ideas.

On June 25th and 26th as well as next month on July 9th and 10th, we’re asking the community to be part of the branding process for the Town of Bluffton.  The charettes are collaborative sessions to help us identify Bluffton’s core values and paint a clear picture of the Town’s future.  We’re working in tandem with the Town of Bluffton and USCB researchers to help develop the Bluffton brand.  Why does it matter?  Because it’s a critical part of the economic development process as well as integral to building tourism for the town.  It represents the community’s voice in determining who we are and communicating that message to others.

If you’re interested in being part of the process, RSVP to Leta Salazar at  The sessions run from 4-7 p.m. and I know it will be time well spent for all involved.  The Bluffton State of Mind is alive and well, and part of the fabric of a Town dedicated to preserving its past while envisioning a bright future for those who live and do business in Bluffton.

Your input is an integral part of this process.  Come let your voice be heard.  I hope to see you there.


Networking and Educational Events Provided by Your Chamber

Posted by Bill Miles on June 10th, 2013

Guest Blog from Chamber Board Chairman Tom Upshaw.

I’ve asked your chamber President and CEO Bill Miles if I can take the helm of the chamber’s Monday Morning Briefing this week.  Sometimes it’s tough for the chamber to “toot its own horn” but I truly believe that the chamber’s work on behalf of its members is outstanding and often accomplished under the radar.  The chamber staff is committed to enhancing the business community in a very real and tangible way each day.  You need to look no further than the month of May to understand how the chamber is serving its members.

What has your chamber accomplished lately?  Take a look at the schedule of networking events and educational opportunities last month in which hundreds of chamber members participated:

May 2 – Executive Connection – Ameris Bank
May 7-9 – Chamber’s membership event which brought over 180 new     organizations to the chamber thanks to 140 volunteer members
May 11 – Dedication of the chamber’s Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton class project at Dubois Park in Old Town Bluffton
May 11 – Participation in the Bluffton Village Festival
May 12-18 – Chamber Bike & Dine Week with over 35 restaurants participating
May 14 – The annual Business Golf Classic – a sold out event at Berkeley Hall benefiting chamber initiatives such as Junior Leadership and Project Connect
May 16 – Business After Hours and the Sonesta grand opening celebration with over 200 members in attendance
May 20-24 – Small Business Week
May 20 – Pork in the Parking Lot Member Appreciation BBQ lunch
May 21 – Social Media Seminar
May 21 – “Geeks After Hours” networking event
May 22 – Seminar on building a winning team for your business
May 22 — Seminar on the 5 levels of leadership
May 22 — Seminar on how to enhance your customer service
May 22 – Seminar on how to take advantage of referral marketing
May 22 — Wine and Cheese Member Appreciation networking event at the chamber’s Bluffton office
May 23 – Small Business of the Year Awards Luncheon
May 24 — Young Professionals Group networking at Corks in Bluffton

This month is turning out to be a productive one as well.  We hosted a  very well-attended Executive Connection at the Sea Pines Country Club as well as our graduation ceremony for the 2013 class of the Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton class.

I’d like to thank the hundreds of members who participated in a myriad of networking and educational events last month.  We appreciate your support, involvement and your feedback and ideas on how the chamber can continue to be one of the best chambers in the country.

Thanks to Bill Miles and his staff for the work they do. I’m honored to be a part of a chamber team committed to excellence in meeting and exceeding the needs of the business community.

Graduation Time

Posted by Bill Miles on June 3rd, 2013

It’s a week of new beginnings for hundreds of students across the Lowcountry.  Tonight marks the graduation of the class of 2013 for Hilton Head High School and tomorrow night brings the same for Bluffton High School.  Many of our local private schools have already closed their doors for summer and sent their graduates off into the world of what’s next.

It’s the time of year we often hear about famous folks delivering graduation speeches at Harvard and other notable universities.  The newsmakers of our day delivering sage advice to college grads soaking up their last few nuggets of knowledge before the real world begins.

It’s ironic that one of the most famous and often lauded commencement speeches wasn’t an Ivy League endeavor, but a high school commencement delivered by David McCullough Jr., an English teacher at the school and the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.  His speech entitled “You Are Not Special” flew in the face of the tenor and tone of most commencement speeches but went viral on YouTube with over 2 million views.   He notes in his speech, in a very creative way, the need to never stop learning, growing and following the path to wisdom.  Good advice. Click here to view his speech.

This week is also the week that the chamber’s Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton class will hold its graduation.  Fifteen graduates, all of them much wiser and a little older than their cap and gown ceremonies of the past, are still following the wise advice noted by McCullough in his speech to keep growing.

My hat is off to them. In a world filled with deadlines, obligations and email in-boxes filled to the brim, they have placed a priority on becoming better leaders not just for themselves but for their communities.  This year’s graduating class set the record for audacious goals.  They raised $28,000 to enhance the lives of Lowcountry children for years to come.  Next time you’re in Bluffton at Dubois Park and see kids aboard the shrimp boat that is the centerpiece of the park’s playground area, know that your chamber’s Leadership class made it happen.   It’s a program that has been producing community leaders for 27 years.

Perhaps you have a son or daughter graduating from high school this week.  My daughter is part of the high school class of 2013.  It’s a new beginning to a never-ending process of learning and life that doesn’t stop when graduates walk across the stage.

I challenge you this week to learn something new, challenge yourself and your team in a new way.  You’ll be glad you did.


Welcome new businesses!

Posted by Bill Miles on May 14th, 2013

I hope you enjoyed the weekend and celebrated the moms in your life yesterday for Mother’s Day.  They’re a very special bunch who deserve our praise and recognition.

Last week was a landmark week for your chamber and there are some special individuals I’d like to thank– our membership event volunteers.  Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the voice of business in our community was strengthened in a very big way.  Last week 180 new businesses joined the chamber. It was a record-setting membership event and we couldn’t have done it without the 100+ member volunteers who made it happen.

The two-day membership event was energizing, positive and such a wonderful reminder that when the business community comes together, great things happen.  Our volunteers reached out to others in the business community to let them know what the chamber has meant to their business and how it makes a positive impact on the Lowcountry.  I am humbled by the effort and support of our membership event volunteers and by the 180 businesses who have joined us to enhance and grow their own organizations.   Listed below are the names of the chamber’s newest members and the volunteers that brought them together.  If you know them, I encourage you to pick up the phone and say two words that are often missed, but mean so much….”thank you!”

There are so many positive things happening right now in the Lowcountry.  Real estate is on the upswing, $200 million in redevelopment efforts continue and this weekend we “christened” the S.S. CareCore shrimp boat.  The chamber’s Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton class raised a whopping $28,000 to build the playground structure in Bluffton’s DuBois Park.  Congratulations to the leadership class on a project that will have an impact on so many children and families in Bluffton.  It was great to walk down Calhoun Street on Saturday as people enjoyed the 35th annual Bluffton Village Festival.  It’s a great reminder of what makes the Bluffton community so special.

I hope your week ahead is a positive and productive one!


Spring is here-just in time for the RBC Heritage!

Posted by Bill Miles on April 1st, 2013

Finally!  We’ve all been waiting for a well-earned Spring and it appears that over the weekend, our weather finally decided to warm up and it’s just in time.

The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is right around the corner.  Last year was the tournament’s first year with new sponsorship and what a year it was.  Sponsor feedback was resoundingly positive, not just about the tournament itself, but about the community as a whole and the warm welcome they received.  One executive with RBC noted that in all his years of handling sponsorships, he had never experienced an event as warm and welcoming as ours.  We love this tournament and it shows.

It’s also our time to shine on the world stage.  With millions of viewers tuned in to the tournament on CBS and the Golf Channel, it’s some of the best PR available.  Visits to our website take a nice upward tick during tournament time.  That’s the power of broadcasting at work for Hilton Head Island.  When you consider that this is an event with an over 80 million dollar economic impact, we’ll take all the broadcast coverage we can get.

Whether you’re headed to Harbour Town just for a day or for multiple outings to take in the tournament, the place to start the “get your plaid on” process is at the chamber. Tickets are available at both our Hilton Head Island location and our Bluffton office.

Support the Heritage and have a great week!


Local Government Accomplishments

Posted by Bill Miles on March 25th, 2013

It seems as though our headlines are riddled with the latest reason to bemoan what’s happening in Washington.  Whether it’s at the local, state or federal level, government officials are often easy targets for criticism.

I’d like to change the conversation for just a moment and give kudos to our local leaders in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island for some of the work they’re doing that qualifies as good news – something that’s rarely found in headlines.

The Town of Bluffton recently purchased 7.12 acres of land at Buckwalter Place to expand their presence in an area that’s becoming a cornerstone for attracting business to Bluffton.  Taxpayer dollars were off the table when it came to paying for the purchase.  It was accomplished  through Rural Development Act funds in cooperation with Palmetto Electric Cooperative and Hargray.   Bluffton has defined what it means to truly move forward in a public/private partnership mode.  They’re always looking for new ways to remind the world that Bluffton is open for business and we applaud them for it.

The Town of Hilton Head Island has always been a model for responsible development.  Hats off to them and the volunteer committee reviewing the Land Management Ordinance, for viewing it through fresh eyes as the recent economic downturn changed the game for everyone.  It gave the Town and most of us in business as well, an opportunity to step back and really look at programs and priorities.  The Town recently purchased land that is part of Port Royal Plantation.  It was a prudent purchase designed to ensure that it is responsibly developed in the future.  While we’re all proud to see how beautifully and carefully this Island has been developed, it’s just as important to note what hasn’t been developed thanks to the Town’s watchful eye.

I believe that serving in local government is an admirable role.  No matter what decision you make, there’s always going to be a group that disagrees, many of them vocally.  Our elected officials are thoughtful, concerned citizens just like the rest of us, that care deeply enough about the Lowcountry to want to make it better.   Thanks to all of them for the role they play in this community.