Beckett Heads Chamber of Commerce  
Thursday, February 27, 2003

THURSDAY, FEB. 27 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column


The new president of the Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce isn't your everyday, run of the mill leader. Jodi Beckett is a businesswoman, the first female to head the industrial-commercial group.
This is important for what it says, not because of what it does. Get beyond glass ceiling whispers and you find a Chamber prexy who talks and acts like most of her male predecessors. "I'm excited because I have a lot of ideas," she says. Growing the membership is a big part of her plan.
First female stuff might be salad for columnists but Ms. Beckett earned her C. of C. rank, serving on committees, working as secretary several years, and through a couple of terms as vice-president. While she finds exhilaration in her Chamber role, "even after three weeks," the tri-town presidency is not her first.
A native of Allentown, Pa., but a Webster resident 17 years, Ms. Beckett has worked as financial manager for Cranston Print Works Co. since 1990. She's had time to absorb distinction as the first female in senior management at CPW-Webster.
"I think that was a bigger shock," she laughed.
While her plans hew to traditional themes, what is good for business is good for the region, Ms. Beckett offers a slightly different perspective.
The WDO Chamber affiliated with the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce last year, and this is plus for the organization, she says. Interstate 395, nearing the quarter century mark, compressed the region, drawing WDO into the Greater Worcester sphere of influence. A 20-minute ride down the divided highway is all the proof anyone needs.
So affiliation with the city group makes sense, particularly when it comes to benefits, says Ms. Beckett.
Businesses with Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce memberships can buy health insurance through the Worcester Area business consortium. "Small businesses can get group rates," says Ms. Beckett. Probably 30 to 35 percent of the Chamber's current membership signed on to take advantage of this, she believes.
Ms. Beckett ticked through a list of other advantages brought through area affiliation, including college tuition discounts for workers at member businesses, and a unique way to distribute discount coupons. While this is the plus to the regional alignment, the three-town Chamber will flourish or flounder on its own numbers, she suggests.
The membership has taken a dip in recent years, Ms. Beckett admits. Getting the word out, drawing people to meetings, and promoting business interests is critical to the future of the organization. In this regard, programs that plug into business services hold promise.
The Chamber of Commerce hasn't been in the news of late but it remains active, meeting at 6 p.m. the 4th Tuesday of every month in the Colonial Restaurant. And it has a great leadership team, Ms. Beckett says, mentioning fellow officers and directors. The future hinges on memberships and every businessperson in Webster, Dudley and Oxford should get on board, says the new president. If ability, youth, and enthusiasm mean anything, Jodi Beckett is going to be much more than a gender gain for the Chamber of Commerce.
She's going to be one heck of a president.
-oOo-
Thomas W. Gelineau sat in Mark Fontanella's Webster restaurant on a cold Saturday morning last month, fueling up for a climb onto a snow-layered roof.
His G.& G. business van, parked outside, told the story. Mr. Gelineau provides painting and chimney sweep services. "I keep telling people not to burn green wood but they don't listen," he grumbled, explaining the "why" behind his scheduled call that day.
"It worked out all right," Mr. Gelineau said a couple of weeks later. "I got there in time." The homeowner averted a chimney fire or worse. Mr. Gelineau, a Dudley resident, has a one-person business, so I inquired about his double G identity.
"I was supposed to go in
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