John Hagen is the new president of the Haines Chamber of Commerce. (Photo courtesy of John Hagen)

The Haines Chamber of Commerce has a new president, some new board members, and is ramping up its efforts to support the local business community through education. That’s in response to needs determined by a recent survey.

The Chamber published the Business Retention and Expansion Report at the end of last year. In the survey created by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, local businesses were asked 61 questions. One was ‘would any of the following topics be of value to your business?’

“Time management – we haven’t tackled that one yet. Marketing, online marketing, customer service and basic accounting were the topics that drew the most response,” says Chamber Executive Director Debra Schnabel. In repose to what businesses said in the survey, she’s started to organize trainings on those topics.

“A need was identified and it was a need identified among business people so the chamber took the lead,” says Schnabel.

Right now, one training will definitely be held. An accounting workshop is scheduled for February 24. Three others, on communications, marketing and customer service are in the works as the Chamber determines if they have enough interest.

Recently the board elected a new president, who hopes to continue to build educational opportunities. John Hagen is a commercial fisherman and photographer who also heads up community education at the Haines School. He’s been on the Chamber board for the last year.

“As a commercial fisherman I really found myself not wanting to just be responding to things that were happening in my community that affected my fishery and my business,” says Hagen. “So I took that as a challenge to get involved.”

Former president Kyle Gray will now serve as vice president. The board includes new members Pam Long, Jeremy Stephens, Gregg Richmond, and Jerry Lapp. The other board members are Sean Gaffney, Michael Ganey and Heather Shade.

One of Hagen’s goals for this new position lines up with what the organization is doing right now – to work with local businesses and provide professional training. He says that is at the heart of what he is passionate about. But, he has several other objectives too.

“One of them is becoming more of an advocate for the business community and our membership,” says Hagen. “We have a lot of things happening in the community. All of them will affect all of the businesses of Haines and to that extent will affect all of the residents of Haines.”

He says the Chamber is also working with the borough to find funding for the repair or replacement of Lutak Dock.

“The best I can tell that’s one of the pieces of infrastructure that every business and resident in Haines finds important,” says Hagen. “It will be important to their businesses and their well-being.”

Hagen says the core of what he wants to do is to make the Chamber the voice of the local business community.

“We are a very diverse business community here,” says Hagen. “We have everything from – at least in our membership we have everything from large-scale mines to small clothing companies. It’s a great challenge finding a consensus on what all those businesses need.”

Hagen says he wants to help facilitate conversations between local businesses.