Live chat with Brien Poffenberger - transcript

January 10, 2006

The Herald-Mail will present a live chat with Brien Poffenberger, starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 2:00 pm today. Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat.

The text of the live discussion will flow into the bottom of this page during its live hour. You can either click "Refresh" on your browser window or hit "F5" on your keyboard to see new responses. Make sure you scroll down to see the latest answers.

Moderator: Much of your previous work experience has been in the marketing area. How has that helped you with your chamber duties, or is marketing a job for the EDC and the CVB?

Poffenberger: A lot of what we do as a staff is to get the word out about what the Chamber is doing, our events and our policy positions, and that's all about marketing. I like to think of marketing as delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. Effectively running the Chamber, we have to deveop the right message and deliver it to the right people in the way they want to hear it. Of course the other piece of this now, is that the business community in Washington County is changing very quickly as Washington County is changing very quicky. So the right people, right message, right time can be a moving target.


Moderator: In his last appearance here, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said that business groups such as the chamber want their legislators to "bring home the bacon," but won't acknowledge that the "bacon" has to paid for in some way, usually through taxes. Is that a fair charge?

Poffenberger: That comment plays on a sterotype that is frankly unfair. Our membership is made up of businesspeople, and we understand the link between investment and outcome. What we are looking for, is a partnership with our elected leaders, so they understand the community's priorities and direct government spending to it's most efficient end.

Moderator: The Washington County Hospital project has been beset by a variety of problems, including a battle between the city government and hospital officials. Does the chamber support the move and if so, how can your organization help move the project forward?

Poffenberger: The Chamber supports the move of the hospital to Robinwood. We do not play an official role, but we are prepared to do whatever the stakeholders ask of us to facilitate the move to Robinwood. So, if that's a public forum, if that is one-on-one meetings, if that's bringing other voices into the discussion, we are happy to do that.

Moderator: You've been with the chamber as its president since August of 2004. Was it tough to replace a popular leader like Fred Teeter and how does your approach differ from his?

Poffenberger: Fred was a very successful Chamber president, but when the Board replaced him, they redefined the position. The Board wanted the Chamber to get move involved in advocacy, with government and in the media. So my job is very different than Fred's. I divide our mission into three parts; serving our members, making the community a better place to work and live and being the voice of business in Washington County.

Moderator: The idea of placing tolls on Interstate 81 seems to have lost support. Is there another way to get this project accomplished?

Poffenberger: Tolls on 81 was a bad idea from the start. It would have placed a disproportionate burden on anyone that lives in the Greater Hagerstown area and uses our roads. It is not so much that the idea died it's own death, but rather people told decision makers that it was a bad idea. I don't know how to complete the safety upgrades in a timely way, but what we need here, is political will and political attention from Annapolis. This is one of those issues that the business community would welcome the opportunioty to work with government officials on.

Moderator: What is the chamber's policy on endorsing political candidates, and since U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes is retiring, does your organization have a favorite to take over his seat?

Poffenberger: We do not currently endorse political candidates, though every day I have members and candidates suggest that we should. That's not the role that political leaders or voters see us playing, but it is a place that many in our leadership would like to see us get to.

Name: Ruth Anne Callaham

Location: Hagerstown

Guest: Poffenberger

Question: Can the Chamber help small businesses and non-profit lower our really large overhead expenses such as health care and utilities?

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