GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 29, 2013

'Building for the Future'

New president, a handyman, sets tone for chamber's year

By Joann Mackenzie
Staff Writer

---- — “This is not your father’s chamber of commerce,” said Bob Heidt of the 230-plus revellers who rocked Cruiseport Gloucester’s ballroom Saturday night for the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce’s 91st annual dinner dance.

It was, literally, a stand-up crowd, leaping to its feet repeatedly to applaud, whoop, holler and hail what emcee Joey Ciaramitaro called an “outstanding year of turnaround” under Heidt, who took over the reins as chamber CEO last January with, by Heidt’s account, a negative deficit of more than $60,000. This December, Heidt finished his first year in office “with a net recorded profit in excess of $90,000.”

Of the “$150,000 positive swing,” Chamber Chairman of the Board Mark Grenier told the cheering crowds, “respect is earned, not given, and we chose the right person in Robert Heidt ... he listens, he learns, and he implements for the chamber.”

“You know,” echoed Ciaramitaro, “you can talk and talk about whatever, but in the end, it’s the money that really talks ... and he (Heidt) took this chamber from big-time negative to a solid financial foundation.”

That said, Ciaramitaro got on with the show — the slide show, that is— with which he revved up the crowd for the main event of the evening; the “coronation” of his longtime buddy and chief collaborator, Ed Collard, as president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

With his signature tech wizardly, Ciaramitaro presented “the past lives of Ed Collard,” in which the new, incoming chamber president appeared as everyone from Dolly Parton to Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mick Jagger, George Washington, Superman, and a new face on Mount Rushmore. Tossing away his prepared speech, Ciaramitaro asked the crowd, “Who never says he can’t do it? Who’s always first and last at every event? Who always has a smile on his face? Who’s always got our backs? Who’s (the best man) to lead us into 2013?” — “Ed! Ed! Ed! Ed! Ed!” the crowd roared back.

As for himself, Collard — who Ciaramitaro described as “a man who hates to talk about himself” — talked about his goals for 2013, a wish list that kicked off the theme for the evening, “Building for the Future.” Priorities on the list, among other things, include “revitalizing the contractors division” to reach out to his fellow contractors who’ve been particularly hard hit by the recession; a continued future-forward focus on tourism, leveraging the area’s singular maritime heritage; a special initiative aimed at developing a local “young professionals group to engage the future; and — as a man who obviously knows his constituency — having fun while doing it.

Then it was over to Grenier’s “`Year in Review” roundup, whose highlights included increased attendance — and revenue — at events in general, and in particular at Small Business Week, the Essex ClamFest, and Fall Restaurant Week.

With Collard’s installation as president, Grenier automatically moves to chairman of the board.

Outgoing Chairman of the Board Sal Frontiero, who served as chamber president in 2011, and outgoing board members Laurie Lufkin and Patricia Paradis were honored for their years of service before the crowd got down to the serious business of the evening — hitting the dance floor to the double-header big band sounds of Henri Smith and Friends as well as The Runaround.

Joann Mackenzie may contacted at 978-283-7000 x3457 or jomackenzie@gloucestertimes.com.