Southern Ocean Chamber Lauds 2017 Accomplishments

Lori Pepenella screened a commercial for the Chamber. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

MANAHAWKIN – The Southern Ocean Chamber of Commerce brought together dozens of local business members for the State of the Chamber breakfast event on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at The Mainland Holiday Inn in Manahawkin. Many people came out to the event to mingle with fellow members and stakeholders over breakfast and celebrate the Chamber’s 104th year of business.

The event began with a buffet breakfast for all of the guests. After this, the program was opened up by second vice president Jeremy DeFilippis, who spoke words of praise and gratitude for the Chamber. Following these opening remarks was Lori Pepenella, CEO of the Chamber, with the Chamber Report and a 2018 update.

“We had 121 new business members,” she said. “We’re very thankful for that.”

Joel Naroff engaged the members in a discussion on business economics. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

Joel Naroff, Ph.D., an esteemed economic forecaster, was the keynote speaker of the event. For about an hour, Naroff discussed politics, tax cuts, the labor workforce, fiscal responsibility, and the growth of the national economy. He wanted to give the members hope as he repeatedly assured them that, “right now the national economy is in good shape,” and, “we will get below the 4.1 percent unemployment rate.”

Succeeding Naroff was Dr. Brian Tyrell of Stockton University. Tyrell presented the 2017 Visitor Profile Study for the Chamber. This survey analyzed the results of a five-month long survey process that began in June 2017, of visitors to the LBI region. The goal of the survey was to establish the geographic, demographic, and psychographic characteristics of the visitors to help the Chamber mold their marketing more effectively to their specific interests. It surveyed people based on location, life stage (family life cycle), destination choice, and types of expenditures.

The event ended, following both special guest speakers, with a few closing remarks and the announcement of the 2018 Board of Directors by Vice President of the Chamber, Christopher Schwab.

2017 Chamber Statistics

Pepenella noted that in 2017 local business was thriving. She described some of the various programs and projects that contributed to this triumph in her opening remarks.

Dr. Brian Tyrell (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

Last year the Chamber introduced the very first Homeland Security Initiative, gathering 75 local law enforcement agencies and community leaders to talk about keeping residents, visitors, and businesses safe during large scale events, she said.

There were also 83 member businesses and 15,000 people that made the 29th annual Chowderfest extremely successful, 77 member businesses that took part in the annual Wedding Road Show, and 21 member businesses that hosted Shop Small Saturday events.

The Chamber now has 7 accredited businesses under its belt and the Southern Ocean Made Brew Trail that opened on Jan.1 is the first public brew trail in the nation that includes non-alcoholic destinations, she noted.

“We believe in organically showing our best assets to bring people here,” she said. “Tourism is a really big part of what we do, and another big part of what we do is connecting businesses.”

They also launched a billboard campaign and were successful in their pilot program of the water ferry that connects Beach Haven and Tuckerton, piloting 32 successful trips, she added.

The Chamber’s efforts during the past year were put into motion much thanks to the $146,000 destination marketing grant that they received. “This is something that we really owe to the assets of the area and the people that work with us all the time,” said Pepenella. “This is a very competitive grant process”

The money from the grant is used to market Chamber programs and projects. They are required to reach a 25 percent match on the amount of the grant and they did so with proceeds from the most recent Chowderfest.

“We had a very busy year this year, but 2018 is going to be even busier,” she said.

2018 Board of Directors

  Schwab closed the event by announcing the Board of Directors for the New Year, including two newly added members. The list follows:

  • Jillian Elsasser, Panzone’s Pizza as President
  • Christopher Schwab 1st vice president
  • Anderson Insurance Agency, Jeremy DeFilippis , 2nd vice president
  • Jetty Life, Andrea Driscoll, treasurer
  • Lori Pepenella, CEO Southern Ocean Chamber
  • Michele Cuff, CFO, Southern Ocean Chamber
  • Laura Benson, Berry, Sahradnick, Kotzas & Benson
  • Malcolm C. Burton, AIA
  • Elizabeth Giglio, Barlow GMC
  • Timothy Hart, Ocean County Culture & Heritage
  • Tanek Hood, Reynolds Landscaping
  • Dot Lassik, TD Bank
  • John Bell Maschal, Bay Village, Lew Richards Crust & Crumb Bakery
  • Rick Temple, Temple Construction
  • Jerry Thompson, The Van Dyk Group
  • New: Michele Collins-Davies, Stockton University
  • New: Carol Holmes, Health Village Imaging.

For more information on upcoming Southern Ocean County Chamber events and programs stop into the visitor center located at 265 West Ninth Street Ship Bottom, call 609-494-7211 or go online at