Miles Coffman, a vice president at M&T Bank, has served as Howard County Chamber of Commerce board chair for two years, and at the May 19 annual meeting will pass the gavel to Jeff Agnor, of Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC. The Business Monthly spoke with Coffman to get his perspective on his term as chair.

In your two years as chair, you have been through significant changes in the Chamber including selecting and welcoming new president/CEO Leonardo McClarty. What impact has that had on the chamber and the community?

First of all I want to thank Jeff Agnor, the chair elect, for all his support over the past two years.

Obviously the selection of Leonardo was the most significant change in my two years as chair. I want to thank Past Chair Greg Lowe for his help during the period when the Chamber did not have a president, and also Ron Meliker for standing in as interim president during the end of that time because he really helped make the transition easier.

On that very first day that Leonardo was in his office, you could see a new enthusiasm from the staff and also the community. He hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped.

What changes have you seen in the past few years that you feel are most significant/positive?

We have expanded partnership with other organizations in the county, including the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Howard County Tourism and Howard Community College.By developing these partnerships the Chamber has been able to expand its reach and also introduce Chamber members to other new resources and opportunities. Leonardo has also put in place new activities such as “Coffee with the President” that has engaged members that have never been very active in the Chamber.

How do you view the Chamber’s role in the business community?

The Chamber serves many different roles in the business community. The Chamber serves as an advocate for the business community, and that role has really grown. More Chamber members are involved, and we are taking more positions, both locally and statewide.

Networking is important to many. Our Young Professionals Network [YPN] is very popular, as is the Business After Business and the GovConnects networking events.

Education is also key for many of our members. GovConnects has been very instrumental in this area with the educational breakfasts, and we seek to expand these to Chamber membership as a whole.

Most importantly, the Chamber has undertaken the development of a new strategic plan. The process has included meetings with members and non-members focusing on their expectations. From this, the Chamber will review the role it plays in the business community.

HCCC has been, and continues to be, a strong chamber in Maryland. To what do you attribute that presence in the state?

Location, location, location.

Being located between Baltimore and Washington and our proximity to Fort Meade and NSA is huge. In addition, we are a county-wide chamber, and we have had a strong core membership that has provided solid leadership over the years.

What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of from your time as chair?

Certainly, with the help of Greg Lowe, holding the Chamber together during the transition period. I give the staff a tremendous amount of credit for that as well.

Working with GovConnects and Chamber leadership on the refocusing of GovConnects. I would especially like to thank GovConnects leadership for their efforts.

Development of the new strategic plan of which I spoke earlier. The plan will be introduced at the annual meeting and is a product of a partnership between the board and staff.

Lastly, with the help of Leonardo and Jeff Agnor, we have reinstituted the two-year term as chair, which gives the organization and staff more stability and allows the chair time to grow into the position.