LAKE WYLIE -- "Welcome to Lake Wylie."
Staff members at the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce know that line well. It's one they have delivered countless times to prospective business owners, would-be residents, travelers needing directions and just about anyone else who might stop in. Now, the chamber has another familiar line to share from its new home: "Open for business."
The chamber celebrates its grand opening Thursday with an event featuring local business professionals and elected state representatives. In November, the chamber moved a couple of miles down S.C. 49 to a new, larger location in the Lake Wylie Business Centre, allowing for both a chamber and visitor center.
"We're on one of the busiest corridors in this part of the state," said chamber president Susan Bromfield. "We got the visitors anyway. This way, we're just able to serve them better."
As an unofficial visitor center for years, the chamber often fields calls from people looking for swimming areas or requesting maps, directions, hotels or events.
Often, the chamber gets as many or more calls from visitors than it does from businesses, said Bobbie Otto, assistant at the chamber.
The S.C. Department of Transportation soon will put up signs for the visitor center, and the 2008-2009 state tourist information will include the new location. The Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau will help staff the center.
Many looking to invest
During her 17 years as chamber president, Bromfield has come to understand the types of visitors coming to Lake Wylie. Visitors to the lake often are looking to relocate homes or businesses to the area rather than stopping by for a break on their way elsewhere.
"The kind of visitors we get, a lot of times, are ones who are going to invest in South Carolina," Bromfield said.
Last year, local state representatives helped get $350,000 in the state budget approved for the chamber and visitor center, which allowed for the new space within Lake Wylie Business Centre without a mortgage.
"Susan Bromfield really did a yeoman's job in coordinating all of this," said state Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney.
Peeler is proud of the new center.
"In real estate they have a name for it -- curb appeal," Peeler said. "It has great curb appeal, and it's really going to be a nice addition to the area. The area's just exploding, and we want to take advantage of it."
State Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-Clover, toured the new location last week and agreed with other legislators that it was money well spent.
"It's fabulous," he said. "About the best chamber office I've ever seen. It's in a nice location, and it's easy to find. With the other office, it was so crowded you couldn't fit anybody in, hardly."
With information from voter registration to driver handbooks, the chamber has been helping the state for years, said state Rep. Carl Gullick, R-Lake Wylie, a River Hills resident.
"This isn't just a chamber building in the eyes of the state," he said. "This is a building that's doing some of the state's work for it. We're darn lucky to have the chamber here."
With the number of "early retirees" who often want to start new businesses, the chamber also provides community service as a "business incubator," Gullick said.
All sorts of requests fielded
Over the years, Bromfield has fielded all sorts of requests. Calls asking what day the Fourth of July fireworks display take place are an annual tradition. Then there was the time a confused angler asked for information about the "Crappiethon."
"I had no idea what a crappie was," Bromfield said of the small fish anglers love to catch in Lake Wylie.
As Lake Wylie continues to grow, Bromfield expects to use her new facility to greet and serve many more requests.
"I've been here so long, I take it as normal instead of quirky," she said. "We consider everyone who comes to our door as a visitor, and we'll help them no matter what they want."