Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer James O’Callaghan has been on the job for just more than a week now, and is already bringing new benefits to local businesses.
“Today we just agreed to get discounted business memberships that we can offer to each of our clients for Costco,” he said, adding that he’s also negotiating with merchant service companies to lower credit card transaction costs for vendors.
“(The goal) is to help each individual member to get more out of what the Chamber can offer them, whether it be on the business advocacy level or help lowering operational costs of their business,” he said.
He’s also working on distributing a “Live, Work, Play” survey to community members – the idea is for anyone with a vested interest in Manhattan Beach to express what they look for in a community. “First you get a feel for what type of businesses (they’re) looking for, whether it be nightlife, shopping, grocery,” he said. His involvement in a similar effort targeting Los Angeles residents brought a Target store to downtown Los Angeles.
Hailing from New York, O’Callaghan has lived in California for eight years. Most recently, he served as executive director of Venice Visitor, Venice’s first destination marketing organization. He’s also served as director of visitor services for LA Inc. and the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Working through the LA Convention and Visitors Bureau gave me opportunity to really understand how each community has its own unique identity and was able to offer so much more to the LA experience,” he said.
“We’re just very excited with his energy and the leadership that he’s shown,” said Jennifer Goldstein, outgoing chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, adding that the position attracted about 40 applicants. In the coming year, she said the Chamber hopes to revamp its website, add a visitor’s center and even stay open seven days a week.
While with LA Inc., O’Callaghan was instrumental in working with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce on its Half-Off Hollywood campaign to help drive locals into the tourism-heavy economy by offering them discounts.
“He offers a wealth of experience and innovation in community engagement, building partnerships, social media and more,” said Manhattan Beach City Manager David Carmany, in a statement.
O’Callaghan earned his bachelor’s Hofstra University and his master’s in education from Columbia University.
The Chamber has 500 members, a number which O’Callaghan was sure would grow by press time. “It’s a lovely community,” he said, of Manhattan Beach. “It’s nice to be part of an intertwined community, where you have some very strong business owners.”
Business owners are pleased with the new leadership. Tony D’Errico, who owns two downtown businesses, said at a recent City Council meeting that up until now, he’s never joined the Chamber as a member. “I’ve been one of the biggest naysayers of that organization,” he said, adding that the new leadership and management is a “breath of fresh air.”
The Manhattan Beach City Council recently agreed to add a $75,000 line item appropriating funds for the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Business owners and Chamber members said that the Chamber is like an extension to the city. “I think we need to look at the Chamber as revenue generator,” said business owner Tony D’Errico, adding that if the council supported the Chamber, he’d join the organization and pay his dues as a member.
Annual membership fees vary depending on size of the business and start at $225, O’Callaghan said.
“There are a number of people that are pretty excited…that we are changing the way we’re shaping the Chamber and the benefits we’re offering,” he said.