The Northeast Kingdom Chamber announced today it has signed a long-term lease to move its office into the Green Mountain Mall. The chamber office will relocate to a prime spot in the center, between Radio Shack and the Union Bank, directly across from the mall entrance of JC Penney. The move follows the chamber’s departure from the Pomerleau Building, directly above the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center, a location it had occupied since 2003. The Town of St. Johnsbury, owner of the building, indicated to the chamber in September its desire to rent the entire second floor of the structure to a single tenant and take over operations of the welcome center. The NEK Chamber, established in St. Johnsbury in 1891, has more than 375 business members from throughout the tri-county region known as the Northeast Kingdom. Half of its membership is hospitality related, the remaining 50 percent service-related businesses. ‘The chamber looked at more than 20 locations throughout the region, and the mall space seemed to be a great fit for our organization,’ said Hannah Manley, Northeast Kingdom Chamber president. ‘It will allow us to efficiently serve our membership from a convenient location and will also allow us to prominently display our brochure racks, promoting our members, in the hallways of the mall.’ The chamber move is fortuitous timing for the organization and the mall, which is starting renovations to the center this year. The chamber will not be the only tenant moving into the mall this winter; two other businesses are expected to sign contracts for space within the first quarter of 2012. ‘We are very pleased to have an organization such as the Northeast Kingdom Chamber, a leader in the business community, coming into the mall,’ said Bernard E. Healy Jr., Green Mountain Mall owner. ‘We are in the process of putting a revitalization plan for the mall in place, and we are excited the Northeast Kingdom Chamber will be a strong partner in making these changes happen.’ St. Johnsbury Town Manager Ralph Nelson stated he is ‘absolutely thrilled’ the chamber has decided to remain in St. Johnsbury, adding, ‘There has been a long-standing, strong relationship between the Town of St. Johnsbury and the Northeast Kingdom Chamber. I am very hopeful their relocation will not diminish that.’ Chamber Executive Director Darcie McCann noted the chamber received many suggestions from members and residents on where to relocate its offices, but the suggestion she heard the most was going to the mall. She noted the ease of finding the office, considerable foot traffic, ample parking and public visibility appealed to the chamber in selecting the site. ‘Being in a retail environment ourselves will greatly assist our efforts in attracting stores to the region,’ said McCann. ‘We are very aware our region needs additional stores and companies, and we plan on doubling our efforts in seeking out such businesses and reinvigorating our economic development efforts.’ Construction on the planned chamber space is expected to start immediately and will include a computer resource center for businesses. The computer center will include two computers, a multi-use copy/fax/scan/printer and high-speed internet that businesses can use free of charge. The computer center is being sponsored by the Vermont Department of Labor, Continuing Education at St. Johnsbury Academy and the Northeast Kingdom Chamber. ‘While it is exciting pursuing a new direction, we must acknowledge that it will be bittersweet leaving the Welcome Center and downtown,’ said McCann. ‘In addition to our increased retail and economic development efforts, we will continue to support the Welcome Center and promote our downtown businesses at our new location.’ The chamber plans to move into its new space in the first few weeks of 2012 and will retain a presence on the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center Advisory Board. CAPTION: Northeast Kingdom Chamber Past President Barbara Olden stands in front of what will be the new chamber offices in the Green Mountain Mall come the beginning of the year. Olden, from Union Bank, will be a neighbor of the chamber office, which will be located between the bank and Radio Shack and directly across the mall entrance to JC Penney.