By Joshua Maloni
Christina Crane made a name for herself locally as she helped launch successful promotional campaigns for the Lewiston Stone House and the Lewiston Event Center. Now, she's looking to shine a spotlight on more of the area's businesses and attractions.
Crane was recently hired as the sales and marketing manager for the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce. She'll work alongside President Jennifer Pauly in connecting members and advancing the public's awareness of local stores and eateries.
"I'm going to be working on a lot of different projects with Jennifer. ... Working on new membership opportunities and ways to really get our current members more involved than they already are; doing different marketing projects for them; really making them aware of different opportunities that other members have to offer; being that key person to introduce them to new networking opportunities and creating new events for the chamber that reaches out to the community and really reaches out to the region," Crane said. "I want to be able to give businesses the exposure that they should get as being a member, and really give them the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer the community.
"I worked in small business, so I know how difficult that can be, to do all of that with only a staff of one or two. So, being a staff of three now, we're able to really help each other out with all of those projects and actually look forward to doing new projects that haven't been able to be explored."
Crane, 29, has a master of business administration from Niagara University. She worked for four years at Simon Construction Co., leaving in 2015 as the manager of new business development.
Prior to joining the chamber, Crane worked at Bryant & Stratton College.
"I loved the opportunity of being able to come back to Lewiston - to come back to the village," she said. "When I was here before, I really loved the community, and I loved working and meeting so many different people."
Crane said she's enjoying "Just being able to be in that realm again with everybody and being able to use my degree and do marketing, which was my passion and just the road that I wanted to go on."
When the job was created, "I had a number of people, when the position was posted, contact me and say, 'This is you; this is the job for you. You should really look into it.' So, then I did, and did everything that I needed to do to get the process rolling.
"I was just very humbled and honored that a number of different people contacted me thinking of me for the position in the first place."
Pauly said, "The moment we interviewed Christina for the position, I knew she would be a great fit for our team. We had an interview panel of four, interviewing six candidates for the position and, at the end of deliberating after interviews, we all were in agreement.
"Christina has the entire package to excel in this position. Her degree in strategic marketing gives her the tools to help us drive the chamber to where we want to be, but equally important was her personality and willingness to go the extra mile. A small staff at a nonprofit often requires an all-hands-on-deck attitude, and that is what Christina has.
"Her past experience in helping grow two local businesses from the ground up has given her knowledge that is beneficial to the chamber. Having Christina on staff has already helped us reach several goals in the one month she has been on staff, and we can't wait to develop our plans for 2016!"
Crane said she enjoyed working at Simon Construction Co., but "I had grown and I was ready to try to see what else I could find. I did a little stint at Bryant & Stratton College for a little while. I was able to do a little bit more marketing there, but it wasn't my home. It wasn't what I was ultimately looking for in a career."
Still, she said, "I learned a lot, too, with working at the college and, again, meeting new people and getting up to more of the Erie County area and really getting to know different people out in that area.
"So, tying it in with my current position, it's really good, because a lot of these businesses, come to find out, they're looking to do business in Niagara County. They're looking to connect with people in Niagara County. So, now that they have a connecting person to do that - me - I'm able to put them in touch with different networks of people. And I've already actually started to do that.
"That was a really good part of me going there."
Crane grew up in Niagara Falls without much knowledge of the River Region. When she discovered this area, she loved it, and took it upon herself to learn all about its ins and outs.
"I lived in New York City for a while, and the hustle and the bustle of the city can get pretty crazy," she said. "But I loved all of the local ties to the city. I loved all the local businesses, whether it was retail or dining or even attractions. There were so many different aspects that I found intriguing.
"So, when I was first employed in the (River) Region, that was what really attracted me. I actually moved to Lewiston before I was hired at my previous job. And I just love the area. I loved being able to walk down the street and see all of the local little shops - all of the cafes and bars and restaurants. It really kind of brought the city's local aspect back to me. And I just fell in love with it.
"I wasn't down here too much growing up, because I was from Niagara Falls, and due to transportation couldn't get down here that often. But when I started attending Niagara University, I came down here a little bit. But I didn't really have the appreciation for the region until I actually moved down here and actually got to experience things first-hand and be a resident.
"I think it's important to be able to relate to what you do by actually going through it and living through it. I don't think people quite understand what businesses are going through or what the area is going through if you're not right immersed in it.
"I understand what these small businesses are going through, and how there are trying times, and how there are good times, because I've been there. I've been in that situation."
Crane stressed the chamber is laboring for the local retailers and restaurateurs.
"They're working for the businesses. They're really there to help the businesses be successful, and really gain that exposure that they need. Helping them grow their customer base; helping them - if it's product or networking or awareness - the chamber does all of those things," she said.
Crane explained, "I really admired the chamber before I worked for them, so to be able to be in the position that I am in and work - I love what I do every day. I get up and look forward to going to my job, and knowing what I can do to help make a difference in the community and really bring a positive light to what we are doing. I think it's very important."
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce is located at the corner of Center and South Ninth streets in Lewiston. Call 716-754-9500 or visit www.niagarariverregion.com for more information.