I caught up with Chuck Westcott, president of the Somers Point Business Association. Westcott and the SPBA are working through the new normal and doing everything they can to support businesses in Somers Point and also the association’s membership.
Joe Molineaux: What drew you to the opportunity to join the board and now lead the SPBA?
Chuck Westcott: My wife and I have been coming to the Ocean City area with friends since the mid-'90s. We began boating here in 2001 and fell in love with the town of Somers Point. We decided we wanted to eventually retire here and bought a house in 2010 with the intent of renovating it and vacationing here over the next decade. We came down in 2013 for “a few months” and never left. Since our children are grown, it was a challenge to find a way into the social network. As a former small business owner, I’ve always believed that, when the businesses in your town are strong, the town is strong. I joined the SPBA in 2014 and began getting more involved. I became a board member in 2017 and, at the end of that year, we had unexpected departures of the executive board, leaving an urgent vacancy for vice president. I was willing to step in and, the following year, became the president. My term is 2019-20.
JM: It takes organization and skill to successfully lead any group, especially a large diverse organization like the SPBA, can you talk a little about your background and past experience that have benefitted you in leading the SPBA?
CW: My very early business experience was in retail and B2B sales, owning a retail business myself. I went to nursing school in my 30s, at my wife’s suggestion. She has been a career nurse and a pediatric advanced practice nurse for 25-plus years. After a brief experience in hospital-based nursing, I began working in the clinical research space of the pharmaceutical industry. Over almost two decades, I worked my way up to project management, being responsible for multi-million-dollar research studies for indications such chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis and cancers like advance melanoma. With each experience, I bring forward skills, talents and lessons learned. I feel like I use every part of my past in this all-volunteer role. This year, due to COVID, it has been especially challenging with the severe limits on in-person gatherings. How do you lead a social network when being social isn’t allowed?
JM: What makes Somers Point and the businesses of Somers Point unique?
CW: Somers Point is uniquely positioned, both geographically and economically, to benefit from and support the tourism that Atlantic County is known for. We’re the northern gateway to Ocean City and Cape May County. We have a great historical heritage to offer residents and visitors, which can be found at places like the Somers Point Historical Society and the Somers Mansion, just to name a few. We have tremendous marine facilities for boaters of all kind, from kayaks and SUPs to pleasure yachts and fishing boats of all sizes. We draw scores of visitors for events like the Summer Beach Concert series to the “largest crabbing tournament in the country,” the Assault on Patcong Creek. City and privately sponsored events are a mainstay and help make Somers Point a vibrant and vital community.
JM: What do you enjoy most about working to support the Somers Point business community?
CW: As I said earlier, if the businesses are healthy, the community is healthy. I joined the SPBA so that I could do my part to make the town where I lived alive and vibrant, socially and economically. This is a town where people know the names of the owners and workers in the businesses they patronize because they’re often neighbors or people they grew up with. Although I didn’t grow up in this town, I feel like I have become a member of the community and value the friendships and business relationships I’ve made.
JM: How has COVID-19 directly affected the SPBA and your membership?
CW: I think I can safely say, this year has been unlike any other in everyone’s life. Knowing that this pandemic — and the resulting disruption to families, businesses and life in general — has affected everyone around the world does not make it any easier when it’s your family that has been touched by the illness or your business that has suffered as a result of the mandated closures and limits. I’ve spoken with many members that are doing all they can just to hang on in the hope that those mandated limits will be eased soon or that a successful treatment will be found soon. The nationwide potential for the loss of businesses is staggering, and I only hope that we, as the SPBA and the community, can do more to help our local businesses survive and come back stronger. We have continuously promoted our local community, members and nonmembers alike. This isn’t about promoting and supporting just those who are members of the SPBA, this is about our entire community’s health. In a time like this, we have to do all we can to help everyone. A rising tide floats all boats!
JM: What initiatives were you working on (pre-COVID-19) and are you currently working on for the SPBA and your members?
CW: In early 2020, we set out a plan to be routinely present in print media together with the various electronic channels: Facebook, websites, e-mails etc. We wanted to combine that with quarterly breakfast meetings as we had historically done and then add additional business-sponsored mixers and events at various local locations. When the pandemic started, all of the in-person events were off the table. We quickly shifted our focus to print and social media. We’ve doing our best to be a cheerleader for Somers Point and all of the local businesses with bi-weekly ads in The Current, as well as frequent posts and blasts on social media. The response has been good, and we’ll continue that through the rest of the year. Although we’re supporting all of Somers Point’s businesses, the benefit of SPBA membership is that we can use our extended network to promote your business or service, providing greater reach.
JM: How important is the community support system you and your predecessors have helped to build over the years of involvement with the SPBA?
CW: The community and businesses are undeniably linked. The people, the businesses and the government all have to work together for the good of the community. The people patronize the businesses that sponsor their kid’s sports teams. The government is the steward of the people’s trust and maintains the town and the services the people and businesses need. If one part of the cycle breaks down, the community as a whole loses. It’s a life cycle that needs to be nurtured and cultivated by all members of the community. From my first visits here, I sensed that the people and businesses of Somers Point had a genuine interest in creating a world where we can all live and enjoy life.
JM: Leadership is much easier if you have a strong team assisting you, Can you tell me a little about your board makeup/board members and the teamwork that takes place at the SPBA?
CW: Our board is made up of members of the local business and civic community. We are all volunteers. There are no paid positions. I could not do what I do and the SPBA would not be what it is today without the tireless efforts of the many people that are on our board and those that came before us. Responsibilities are divided amongst us, media, government liaison, membership and, of course finance. Several members are past presidents several times over and some have participated since our inception in 1983.
JM: When you are not leading the SPBA what is your favorite thing to do?
CW: My wife and I love the beach and boating. We enjoy visiting the local wineries or breweries and attending all of the great events that our area has to offer. It seems that, at least pre-COVID, there was always something to do in or near Somers Point.
JM: What is the most important thing you want the community and region to know about the SPBA?
CW: We’re here for you! Our only purpose is to support and promote the businesses of Somers Point and the surrounding communities. Tell us how we can help you and your business. Join us in supporting and promoting the best town in New Jersey!
JM: What does the future hold for the Somers Point Business Association and its membership?
CW: In spite of the current state, I believe that we have the will and depth to survive and then thrive. Adversity provides opportunity. Some businesses have found a way to adjust and continue and even excel. Others have done a great job at meeting the challenges and limitations and continue doing what they do. A few have been positioned, whether planned or not, to grow their business. It’s hard to be positive when the recent past has been so difficult but, the thing that I keep saying to myself and others is, this is temporary. We need to think longer term than this summer or this year and remember that we, as individuals, as a community and as a nation, have been through worse and survived. It is my pledge that the board and the members of the SPBA will do all we can to help our community.
JM: Thank you Chuck Westcott!
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