Chamber and community development representatives spoke on a "bold future" Thursday night during the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Banquet.

Lisa Huckelbury, board chairman for the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, noted the importance of members being "proactive" and "forward-thinking" during her brief speech on the future of the chamber.

Huckelbury gave the 2013 membership drive as an example.

"Last year we had the biggest event I think the chamber has ever been a part of," Huckelbury said. "That membership drive was key for our chamber."

With 160 volunteers, the chamber was able to gain 290 new members in just a few days, a 90 percent increase in membership.

For the chamber to continue to grow and "move into the future," it needs to continue to develop relationships in the community, such as with the school district, Huckelbury said. Another important focus is economic development, she said.

Working with the Institute for Economic Advancement in Little Rock, the chamber is collecting data and statistical information from businesses, which will be put toward a "strategic plan for businesses to help the area grow economically," Huckelbury said.

In full agreement about the future of the chamber and the region was Drew Williams, regional manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, who also spoke briefly at the banquet.

Williams noted the shift of Interstate 540 to becoming a leg of Interstate 49, which is expected to stretch from Louisiana to Canada when completed, and the region’s positioning for future growth. He said that he would not have taken the regional manager position in any other area of the state.

"I really believe this area is the future of Arkansas," Williams said.

Williams also commented on how important dedication is for chamber members.

"No matter what your role is in this chamber, make sure you show up and you are bold in that," Williams said.