Hanna takes charge as Chamber president

SPECTRUM/Bob Hanna is the incoming president of the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce. March 1, 2011
SPECTRUM/Bob Hanna is the incoming president of the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce. March 1, 2011Norm Cummings

Bob Hanna aims to "think out of the box" as he assumes duties as president of the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce.

When he assumed the reins Monday, March 1, Mr. Hanna replaced Ray Kearney, who held the position for two brief months.

That quick transition came after Bill Babbino had served in the post for 12 years.

"Ray and I have the same approach about the Chamber," Mr. Hanna said. "It's all about networking and providing good services for members. It's all about helping businesses grow themselves."

Mr. Kearney stepped down to seize a business opportunity out of the area, Chamber executive director Denise Del Mastro explained.

Mr. Hanna had been serving as first vice president on the Chamber board.

His is a known face in town.

A 26-year resident of New Milford, for 16 years he's worked as an organizer for Village Fair Days. Last year he was chairman of the event.

"I did the layout we use now on the Green," he said. "I call it the Stew Leonard's effect; you walk by everything."

Mr. Hanna met Mr. Babbino while working on his first Village Fair Days committee, he recalled. A friendship developed as Mr. Hanna watched Mr. Babbino "take an organization not operating at its full potential" and turn it into a "vibrant, growing one."

Mr. Hanna intends to continue that growth, drawing on the 300-plus members for a well-spring of new ideas.

"I try to think out of the box," he said. "For Village Fair Days this year, we're going to have something like a `Poker Run.' People will visit stores in the village center and get a poker card at each store.

"They can then take their best five cards," he continued, "and present them to be entered into a computer program set up by a Reno company."

The grand prize will be a shopping spree in downtown businesses, along with a money component.

"A lot of downtowns have become a shell of what once was," Mr. Hanna said. "Danbury was that way when I was a boy. But Danbury, like a lot of towns, bounced back.

"The Village Center Organization is trying its best to keep the businesses here in downtown," said the new Chamber president. "We've always included them in the Village Fair Days. The Poker Run will get people into the shops."

"It's all about helping businesses," concluded Mr. Hanna. "The Chamber members are my primary focus. But overall, what we do is encourage people to think local."