As a proud two-year member of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, I was taken aback by former city councilman Bob Allen’s comment, “…what is this organization doing for the community? Monthly breakfasts and annual barbecue and Halloween events do little to attract outsiders to want to come to this fair city and invest their resources.”

Mr. Allen, you may think Crestview citizens know little about how a municipality works, but it’s more than apparent to me that you do not know how a chamber of commerce works.

The purpose of a chamber is to gather business owners to network with one another and help each other in advancing their own businesses. I know the staff and many of the executive board members personally and I can assure you they work diligently to make sure that the chamber’s members are well accommodated.

The Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce is also the most forward thinking in the county concerning young professionals, despite the city of Crestview’s tendency toward the contrary.

The Crestview Chamber has the first active young professionals committee among the county’s other chambers and has a chair-elect that is in her early 30s.

The Crestview Chamber is really the biggest asset to keeping Crestview businesses alive in a city that levies unnecessary hardships on entrepreneurs. If you don’t believe me, just look at all of the empty buildings downtown and along the highways.

When business owners had to fight to get the Crestview City Council to lift an antiquated alcohol ordinance to allow more businesses to open in the downtown area, it became the embodiment of what the city of Crestview thinks of accommodating new business.

On top of the Gerrymandering of the city itself, the high asking price of commercial property plus taxes and the dubious fast-track process the city allows for corporate businesses to sprout like mushrooms while entrepreneurs are required to nearly bankrupt themselves in order to get established, it’s obvious that the city, not the chamber, is the problem.

Furthermore, when outsiders come to invest their resources into making the city itself more efficient, they tend to get run out of town by one particular city councilman who not only shoots down new ideas, but calls said outsiders everything short of “damn Yankees” in the process.

Thankfully, there is a new wave of progress coming to our fair city: something I like to call the “Hub City Spring.”

Crestview citizens are calling for change in the form of a Facebook group, and it’s already made a dent in the good-ole-boy way of thinking in this town.

Crestview Citizens for Change still has a long way to go, but at least its members are taking steps in the right direction. 

Johnny C. Alexander is a Crestview resident and freelance writer, photographer and videographer.