Wendy Hunt named new leader of Souhegan Valley Chamber

Photo courtesy of Harper Point Photography Wendy Hunt, the new executive director of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, with Trent Blalock, financial adviser with Edward Jones. Blalock was named the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year at its annual dinner.

AMHERST – As head of the Milford Improvement Team (MIT), Wendy Hunt organized the Milford Pumpkin Festival over the past 31/2 years.

And though she now has a new job, executive director of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, she will organize the festival this year, with the help of MIT and the town of Milford.

During a recent interview, Hunt said she is convinced of the festival’s value for Milford and the entire area. Starting more than 25 years ago as a small benefit to pay for Milford Town Hall Auditorium renovations, it has grown to the point where Expedia.com named it “the number one event in New Hampshire.” Last year it attracted 45,000 people over three days.

“It was too late to get someone else” to organize the festival, she said, and it’s an essential part of Milford’s identity.

Hunt was hired to replace Tracy Hutchins, who left this spring to become the chamber director in Hanover. Hunt has taken over a thriving organization that has numerous events for members to meet and learn from each other, and she’s planning more.

For example, there is Lunch N Leads, which meets the first Thursday of each month at noon for businesses to sit down and figure out how they can help one another, Hunt said.

At a recent Lunch N Leads, for example, a new small business that was not sure how to brand itself met with EmbroidMe, a screen printing and embroidery company.

And small businesses, which typically know nothing about signage, can talk with Paul and Becky Tripp of Classic Signs, who know how to negotiate local sign regulations.

On the third Wednesday of each month, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., is the chamber’s business mixer. The next one is at King Street Vineyards on July 19, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., for wine tasting and networking.

The chamber also has special interest roundtables, build-your-business seminars and new member receptions.

Starting this year, is a roundtable for nonprofits to brainstorm about issues they have in common and strive for a bigger profile. The Lucas Community in Temple, which provides housing for disabled adults, is a new member, and until they joined the chamber, Hunt said, she hadn’t heard of them.

Hunt worked for Opportunity Networks before she was hired as MIT director, so she is very aware of the chamber’s value to nonprofits.

“My connection list really grew,” she said, and for only a $24 a month membership fee, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Hunt’s goals include more chamber involvement with local young people, with perhaps a “reality fair” where teens can learn something about the costs of living.

She’s also thinking about a St. Patrick’s Day party, with beer tasting, games and a photo booth.

“We are all so serious, so busy,” it would be good to have a party just for fun, and since St.Patrick’s Day is on a Saturday next year, why not, she said.

MIT will postpone a decision on hiring a new executive director until after the festival, she said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.