Massena Chamber of Commerce executive director takes voluntary, temporary leave

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MASSENA — The executive director of the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce has opted to take a temporary four-month sabbatical from his position until chamber revenues can turn around.

Nathan Lashomb, who also owns Forevermore Studio Photography, will forego his chamber paycheck during his sabbatical, giving chamber board members and staff time to address the revenue concerns. He temporarily left his position effective last Thursday.

“We’ve got a timeline of four months,” he said.

The chamber’s Board of Directors made the announcement to their membership via a letter that was distributed last week.

“When Nathan took the position as Executive Director back in 2015, it was with dwindling numbers of memberships and an event schedule that was upside down in expenses. Since then, Nathan has slowly built back our chamber to what it should be. In doing that, Nathan has grown an audience that is bigger than any chamber in the region,” board members said in their letter.

“However,” they added, “with the saturation of competing events and festivals in the area, countywide budget cuts of both family and corporate owned businesses, the lack of volunteer participation, and other mounting variables, our Executive Director has come to this decision.”

With Mr. Lashomb foregoing his paycheck, the chamber will save money and have additional time to get dues and sponsorships, board members said.

Mr. Lashomb said taking a sabbatical was in the best interest of his staff, Associate Director Lindsey Breitbeck and Media Manager Daykota Snyder, who will continue their roles at the chamber.

“It was an easier decision than letting my staff go,” Mr. Lashomb said. “In a small business, when you have a job to do, usually it’s the owner who doesn’t take a paycheck to get the job done. I see this as a business. Their positions are much more important to member services. That’s what’s being done is member services.”

However, he won’t be totally out of the chamber picture. Board members said Mr. Lashomb will still be available for ribbon cuttings and brief meetings.

“I’m still on board. I’m not going away, but I’m not on the payroll,” Mr. Lashomb said.

Chamber board members and staff will soon begin strategic planning sessions to help address their concerns.

“We’re going to be developing a strategic plan to overcome this,” Mr. Lashomb said. “It has been something that the chamber has dealt with for many years. There’s been many times that we’ve tried to put a Band-Aid on the situation. Now it’s time to face facts. We’re going to restructure, like I’ve been doing the past three years, and focusing on the mission statement.”

“We encourage anyone from our membership to participate in these planning sessions. If you would like to help support the Chamber, we have plenty of great events coming up,” board members said.

Those include the 86th annual Wine and Food Showcase on May 19 and the Tri Chamber Golf Tournament on June 15. More information is available on the chamber’s Facebook page or by visiting massenachamber.com.

“In closing, we believe in the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce. Nathan took the position to increase community support in Massena and help businesses flourish. Nathan continues to show this passion by stepping back and allowing the Massena Chamber to rebuild. Our board of directors will do everything in their power to aid in Nathan’s return to the Executive Director position. The one thing we know about Massena is when times get tough, we go through them together,” board members said.

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