For the past two years, Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce President Michael Wentz has been building momentum in the community for positive changes in the business environment, beauty and cultural heritage of Farmingville.
In fact, we last spoke with Wentz in person over the summer, when he was organizing a community cleanup of the Farmingville Hills County Park on Horseblock Road. It was at this cleanup that Wentz presented Class of 2012 Sachem East graduate Alexa Brown with the Chamber's first "Make A Difference" Scholarship, for her video-submitted suggestions on how to better the community.
In this Q & A with Wentz, we dig a bit deeper into the role of the Chamber, its goals, and what Farmingville residents can look forward to in 2013.
Sachem Patch: When did Farmingville Hills Chamber come into existence?
MW: Although there have been other Farmingville Chambers in the past, there had not been an active one in years. As a result, in January 2011, I created the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce from the ground up – a new name, new logo and a new beginning.
Sachem Patch: Are you the 1st President of Farmingville Hills Chamber? What made you decide to get involved?
MW: I am the founding President of the FHCC. I have been an active member of the Farmingville community throughout my ten years of residency. I started volunteering my time as a member of the Farmingville Residents Association and Farmingville Historical Society. Through my participation in these organizations, I was appointed to Brookhaven's Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to help create and implement a redevelopment plan for Farmingville called Farmingville: Our Vision for Tomorrow. Consequently, the CAC determined that a new Chamber of Commerce should be created to strengthen the relationship between businesses, non-profit organizations, and residents. I decided to step up to the plate and further investigate the steps necessary to incorporate such an organization. After numerous discussions with neighboring Chamber leaders and hours of research, I invested personal funds to see the Chamber come to life.
Sachem Patch: What are the overall goals of the chamber?
MW: The FHCC was formed to advance the general welfare and prosperity of the Farmingville area so that its citizens and its business community shall prosper. The Chamber is focused on bolstering business by increasing sales, creating brand awareness, creating loyal customers, while instilling pride within its members and local citizens. Therefore, our main goal is to get the businesses involved with the community and get the community into these businesses.
Another goal is to educate the business community about the benefits of joining a chamber. As mentioned before, Farmingville has not had an active chamber in years, and many business owners are not aware of the services that a chamber can provide for its members. In addition to our monthly networking meetings, members are entitled to an array of discounts, able to sponsor community events such as our Annual Farmingville Street Fair, and participate in the Chamber’s various programs.
Sachem Patch: What are Farmingville's biggest challenges and issues, from a business perspective?
MW: The biggest challenge is helping small businesses survive in the current economic state. More store fronts are becoming vacant and thus, driving down traffic to these shopping centers. Consequently, this causes the remaining stores to struggle. To overcome this challenge, we encourage people to shop local and shop chamber. The Chamber offers a free discount program called the Farmingville FUNds Card that saves card holders up to 15% at participating businesses. The Chamber also has various events throughout the year where members can sponsor and particpate to help create brand awareness. For a list of our members, people can visit FarmingvilleChamber.com
Sachem Patch: What do you think Farmingville's residents would like to see develop or grow, or change in 2013, from a business perspective?
MW: I think Farmingville's residents would like to see more restaurants, live-music cafés, a bookstore, clothing, and other specialty stores. They would like to see more mom and pop businesses that provide unique items that wouldn't normally be found in a chain store. In efforts to aid in this growth, the Chamber has a webpage that assists people in opening a business in Farmingville.
Sachem Patch: How do you think the Chamber can help Farmingville become an even better place to live? What is sorely lacking?
MW: When I created the Chamber two years ago, I also created the clock logo and motto, “Time to make a difference.” I was tired of hearing my neighbors say they went to this town for this event or they went to that town for a restaurant. I wanted to help create a sense of community right here in Farmingville. In the first 18 months, we held the Feast of Farmingville, Dining and Dancing, Pumpkin Painting & Food Drive, and our biggest event, the 1st Annual Farmingville Street Fair. The Chamber also teamed up with the Farmingville Residents Association for Community Cleanup Day. For the second year, the Chamber is offering the Make a Difference Scholarship awarding $500 to a graduating Sachem East student. In addition to hosting similar events for 2013, we are also working on plans to help beautify the community. If Farmingville residents
have an event or project they would like to see in Farmingville, they are welcome to submit their suggestion at Facebook.com/FarmingvilleHillsChamber or email info@FarmingvilleChamber.com.
Sachem Patch: What should Farmingville residents look forward to in the coming months regarding their community?
MW: Plans are underway for the 2nd Annual Farmingville Street Fair that will be at the end of August. We are also planning another Feast of Farmingville in addition to some other events. Farmingville residents can also look forward to a fundraiser that will be held by the Farmingville Historical Society in a few months. Residents will be given a rare opportunity to see inside of the 163 year old Bald Hills Schoolhouse located across the street from the Farmingville Post Office.
The Farmingville Hills Chamber meets every month at the Flaming Hearth restaurant on Horseblock Road.