The West Ashley-James Island Business Association (WAJIBA) is only a quarter of a way into its eighth year of existence and there seems to be a renewed infusion of energy this year. With an almost completely new board at the helm, the business group seems to be loosing it’s collar a bit, both figuratively and literally.
The group of about 50-60 local (mostly West Ashley) business men and woman meet on the fourth Thursday of every month at Bessinger’s BBQ for networking, lunch, and to hear from a speaker or speakers about issues that impact our region — ranging from politicians and public figures to local business owners and community leaders. But last month, members took off their ties and sports coasts and rolled up there sleeves for some good old fashioned Lowcountry networking. In lieu of it’s normal February meeting WAJIBA members and guests held an oyster roast at the Elk’s Lodge on Sam Ritternberg Boulevard.
West Ashley catering legend Jamie Westendorff, of Charleston Outdoor Catering, kept the oysters coming as members of the local business community put down their smart phones and their guard and enjoyed a couple cold beverages and plenty of steamed oysters.
The Oyster Roast was not the only change in direction for WAJIBA. New president Valerie Green sees the changes that West Ashley is experiencing and knows that the area’s business group must change too in order to stay relevant. She is looking to build off of what was in place when she took the helm in January but also reach out to new members and perhaps different members of the local business community who have not ever been to a WAJIBA meeting before.
“My goal for WAJIBA this year is to build on our vision of a healthy and dynamic business community,” says Green, who is the vice president of South State Bank on the corner of Savannah Highway and Main Road. “As our population continues to grow in this area, WAJIBA provides a gathering point for members to share information and ideas that shape our community and also inspire a strong sense of pride. New members are welcome to join and share in the idea exchange.”
One of the ways Green looks to attracts new members is by doing things, like last month’s oyster roast. “Historically we have been a group that meets over lunch meetings, however this is not always a viable time for people to meet based on different scheduling needs,” she says. “We switched things up a bit this year by hosting an oyster roast in the evening to allow a more flexible time for people to come, socialize, network and exchange ideas.”
There is also talk about having a member happy hour or other after-hour meetings. But that’s not to say that WAJIBA is going to get away from its trademark informative and relevant programming. Quite the contrary, with so many issues impacting West Ashley, WAJIBA looks to ramp up it’s programing this year. For example, the March 28 meeting will feature Charleston County Council chairman Vic Rawl and councilmember Brantley Moody, who will talk about projects the Country is working on that effect West Ashley, like the flooding, paving, the Savannah Highway capacity study, and of course, where we stand on the future of Interstate 526.
WAJIBA will meet on Wednesday, March 28, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Bessinger’s BBQ, located at 1602 Savannah Hwy. Free for members and $20 for non-members and includes a buffet lunch. For more information visit www.wajibiz.com.