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D.C. Chamber’s new president wants to help small businesses

(Published March 25, 2002)

By ERIKA WAAK

Staff Writer

The new president and chief executive officer of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce says she wants the Chamber to focus on promoting small businesses and increasing membership.

Barbara B. Lang, who began her duties on March 15, said she will draw on her managerial and leadership skills acquired as vice president and chief procurement officer for Fannie Mae in her new role.

"I got involved with the Chamber trying to promote Fannie Mae’s small and minority owned business [programs]…and I saw the Chamber as a way to help us be successful in giving more to those small businesses," said Lang, who represented Fannie Mae on the Chamber’s board of directors for four years.

Lang said she wants the Chamber to be "able to strike procurement opportunities for companies" by taking "two suppliers, maybe a larger and a smaller one, and pairing them together" so that the Chamber is providing "a large company an opportunity [and] allowing them to mentor a smaller company."

She said she will explore ways that the Chamber can facilitate strategic partnerships for its members and use the Georgia Avenue Resource Center as a successful model. She said she plans to replicate this model for small businesses in several corridors, such as east of the Anacostia River or in Shaw, to provide support mechanisms to small businesses.

Increasing the Chamber’s membership from 1,400 to 2,000 in the next year and a half will be one of Lang’s primary goals, she said. Another major focus for Lang, the Chamber’s directors and its 17 strategic business partners is to establish the organization’s 2002 legislative agenda within the next 30 to 45 days.

Lang said she wants to build on the work of her predecessor, Richard Monteihl, and others, who have already forged a close relationship with Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Eric W. Price. She said she hopes to help alleviate many of the licensing and tax obstacles that D.C. businesses face.

The Chamber has "done an awful lot in working with the District government to help the District be viewed as being very business friendly, and I think that that work is not over yet," she said. "The uniqueness of this role is that we have very large companies that we represent as well as very small companies, and so I have to make sure that we are the voice for all of them."

Lang also said she plans to produce reserve funding for the Chamber by "making some modest investments…that will help prepare us for economic downturns. Those times will come again and we want to make sure that the Chamber is prepared a lot more than we are today."

Charlene Drew Jarvis, the former city councilwoman who became the Chamber’s board chairman in December, said Lang "comes with a tremendous wealth of senior level management experience. She understands the organization, culture and needs of business."

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator