The past year has been one of transition for the Howard County Chamber of Commerce. Undoubtedly one of the most notable changes is my being here. To say that I am ecstatic about being one of these new elements of change is an understatement.

I have had the pleasure of serving as your president for four months now, and I have been overwhelmed by the warmth extended to me and the willingness to aid my transition to this community. Moreover, I have been encouraged by the outpouring of volunteer support this organization has from its members and the external backing provided by various community leaders, appointed officials and those in elected office.

Besides my installation here, we have a new marketing and communications manager in Mary Klett, who brings 20 years of marketing and communications experience, having worked in a variety of industries including energy, event planning and telecommunications. Among her previous positions, Mary served as communications manager at EDF Inc., the U.S. headquarters of a multinational energy corporation, and director of marketing and research for MCT Corporation, a telecommunications company investing in Russia and Central Asia.

Coinciding with my arrival was the hiring of Terri Carpenter, an accomplished communications, marketing and sales professional with more than 15 years of media experience as membership director. Terri’s work history includes stints at Custom Media Options and WJRT – ABC 12. Both of these women bring much needed experience and insight to this organization and have immediately been great contributors to the Chamber.

Beyond personnel, the past year has seen the Chamber ramp up our programming and advocacy efforts with the purpose of better serving our members and the Howard County community at large. The Chamber’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) and GovConnects programs continue to grow. The YPN program has become the envy of many organizations and has become the measuring stick by which Chambers across the state are comparing theirs.

The three-year GovConnects initiative continues to offer robust education and networking to the government contracting community. The annual Cyber conference showed why it is one of the region’s most highly anticipated gatherings of intelligence and Internet security experts. Earlier this year, the program held its first Women’s In Government Contracting conference, which allowed nearly 150 professional women in the government contracting community to network and garner encouragement from one another.

Equally as important is the fact that our event attendance continues to increase year over year as evidenced by the phenomenal turnout at the October Signature Event and the capacity crowd at the fall Legislative Preview Breakfast. This year’s State of the County Address reached epic proportions as more than 500 Howard County business, civic and political leaders descended upon Turf Valley for County Executive Allan Kittleman’s inaugural address.

This past year also saw the Chamber focus more attention on legislative matters. While the Chamber always has been active in local affairs and will continue to be so, preparations were made for us to be a more active and vocal player at the state level.

To accomplish this mission, we instituted five sub-committees to our legislative affairs committee: Education/Workforce Development, Budget/Finance/Taxation, Environmental/Transportation, Health/Healthcare and Workplace/Labor. To date, more than 25 people have signed up to participate in these various sub-groups, thereby positioning the Howard County Chamber to be much more influential on statewide affairs.

As one can see, the past year has been one of change. Although change sometimes can be burdensome, cumbersome and outright painful, I am reminded that beauty often comes about via intense pressure.

A butterflies start out as an egg, moves to caterpillar and transitions to pupa before becoming an adult. It is the adult component of this metamorphosis that we all know and love, with its colorful array of designs and patterns. Yet it is through physical change and pressure that beauty forms.

The past year marked the beginning of the Howard County Chamber’s transformation. Stay tuned and keep watch as change is occurring so that we might fly higher in the world of business development.