by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Figuratively, the new year is considered an opportunity to start new. For the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, there's nothing figurative about what 2013 is bringing.
At the beginning of January, the business organization encompassing the northern towns of Lewiston and Porter – including the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown – moved its offices into the Lewiston Welcome Center, located at 895 Center St.
"It's a perfect match," Chamber President Jennifer Pauly said. "We know the different businesses in the region, we know the area. I think we're able to represent the area well with the foot traffic we have coming in here."
The move was first approved in September, when the Lewiston Village Board agreed to provide the space at the Welcome Center, a building it owns, rent-free. In return, the Chamber will cover the costs of utilities at the building year-round and see a reduction in contributions from the Village Board from $9,000 annually to $4,000.
The chamber previously paid about $10,800 in rent per year to Town of Lewiston Justice Thomas Sheeran for use of his building at 100 N. Third St., at the intersection with Center Street.
Prior to renting from Sheeran, the chamber had been located at the village's Little Yellow House at 476 Center St.
Making the transition wasn't entirely easy, though. Work needed to be done at the recently renovated Welcome Center, a former house which was moved across Center Street to its current location as part of preservation efforts spearheaded by Mayor Terry Collesano, former Mayor Richard Soluri and Trustee Bruce Sutherland.
Pauly said the floors and ceilings of the building are slanted and lopsided, which caused some furniture to require adjusting before the staff could complete the move. But now that it's the new year, the organization dedicated to advocating for businesses in the lower Niagara region is fully functioning in its new home.
"We had to do some work in the upstairs," she said. "We're still getting everything situated, and we ordered some new signage for out front. But we're fully operational here, now that Christmas and New year's are done."
Reuniting the chamber with the village was a goal of Collesano's administration. Like Pauly, he said the match between the two is a perfect one, a major reason the board agreed to offer the chamber the space in the first place.
"It's something we've strived for for several years now," Collesano said. "I believe this is a win-win situation. They're helping the village cut our costs and we're helping the chamber. Plus, I think it's a better presence for the chamber to be in front of village.
"It's a benefit to us both. I think it's going to work out fine, I'm sure."