By Kim Steele

Harker Heights Herald

The new chairman of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce board of directors has some definite goals in mind for the business organization.

"My goal is to get back to the basics," said Patrick Starns, who took over the chamber's helm last month. "Businesses have had a tough year because of the economy and the troops being gone. Membership has been a challenge for all chambers, and it will be a focal point here."

Starns, who replaced former chairman J.C. Schoel, knows about the ups and downs of business in Bell County. He has been the store manager at Walmart in Harker Heights since 2005, and oversees a workforce of 500 employees. Also, he was born and raised in Copperas Cove.

Starns said his first goal is to increase membership in the chamber. Currently, there are about 721 members, a decrease from the almost 800 members at the same time last year. They are from Belton, Temple, Killeen, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and other nearby communities.

Starns said being a chamber member has many benefits, including ribbon-cuttings for new members and a listing in the newsletter. All members are listed in the directory, and they can purchase advertising on the chamber's website.

Also, members can bring fliers and business cards to the chamber office for display. And they can serve on a variety of committees.

Chamber events include business after-hours mixers, governmental affairs luncheons, military affairs committee events, an annual golf tournament, the Central Texas Food and Wine Festival and the chamber's annual banquet.

Starns, who has been a member for four years, said he wants to strengthen the chamber's programs and involve more members in its activities, especially the golf tournament and the food and wine festival.

Starns said growing the chamber will be a challenge, but he believes he is up to the task.

"For Harker Heights, I see tremendous growth and opportunity," said Starns. "The area has really developed. As a kid, I remember driving through town on a one-way highway, and now look at it. This is an awesome place to bring business in, and it's important for people to spend their money in this city."

Bill Kozlik, chamber president, said he looks forward to working with Starns during his one-year appointment. Kozlik said Starns is a long-range planner who wants to get input from board members and employees about making improvements and changes.

"Patrick likes to have a business plan and a pattern to follow, and that's what he brings to the chamber table as the new chairman," said Kozlik. "He wants to focus on what we're doing now and make it better, and only then move on to one new thing at a time."

Contact Kim Steele at or (254) 501-7567.

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