Is the Mount Pleasant Business Association a group of community leaders who get together once a month to socialize, eat lunch, listen to a speaker, network and discuss ways to grow their businesses? Or is it a philanthropic group that gives back to the community by donating money to local charities?
Maybe MPBA’s focus is education; after all, the group awards up to $5,000 each year in college scholarships to deserving local high school students.
It’s possible that the organization, established in 1992 as the Mount Pleasant Merchants Association, is all of the above and well on its way to being the closest thing the fourth largest municipality in South Carolina has to a chamber of commerce.
MPBA, which meets the third Thursday of the first 11 months of the year at the Holiday Inn on Highway 17, always has had a cordial relationship with the town of Mount Pleasant. It’s been a tradition for the mayor, Billy Swails now and Harry Hallman before him, to speak to the business group at least once a year, a meeting that regularly draws a large crowd. MPBA’s relationship with the city has grown tighter in recent years, however, due in part to a close alliance between MPBA’s leaders and the town’s Community Development and Tourism Office.
“The town has always supported us,” MPBA President Shawna Garris, assistant vice president at Tidelands Bank, commented.
“But now the Community Development and Tourism Office provides an avenue for the town to work on more projects with us. They are trying to support business and bring new industry to Mount Pleasant.”
That avenue led directly to a joint project of the town and MPBA – the first of what is expected to be an annual event – the Mount Pleasant Entrepreneur and Business Expo, held Sept. 8, 2011 at the Omar Shrine Temple and sponsored by the Moultrie News. The expo gave MPBA members and additional Mount Pleasant companies the opportunity to market their products and services to other businesses and to a crowd surpassing the 500 mark.
MPBA and the town of Mount Pleasant are working together in other ways, as well. For example, the group holds a members-only nighttime networking session each month, an event that is sponsored jointly by the town once a quarter. And Quin Stinchfield, the town’s business development and tourism coordinator, also serves as MPBA’s events coordinator.
According to Garris, who took over as president of MPBA in January 2011, the organization strives to provide its 100 or so members with information, advocacy and education.
“MPBA brings together businesses and professionals to work together to help us all succeed,” Garris said. “The last couple of years we’ve been moving more toward networking and strengthening our partnership with the town of Mount Pleasant.”
She pointed out, however, that the group’s most important job is to do everything possible to help local businesses prosper.