GLOVERSVILLE - When the president of the merged Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce isn't advocating for the businesses and communities of the region, he might be found exploring the Adirondacks or digging for his next prized mineral.
Mark Kilmer said when he was atop one of the high peaks of the Adirondacks with a friend and looking over the broad outdoors, he had a profound realization about the benefits of this region.
"I was absorbing this magnificent view from on top of the mountain and turned to my friend and said, 'Right now, we are looking over this vast area of wilderness, and tomorrow morning, I'll be standing next to the skyscrapers of Manhattan.' Where could I do this anywhere else in the world?" Kilmer said. "It had a very profound effect on me and gave me this great sense of appreciation for where I live."
Mark Kilmer, who has a black belt in karate, smashes bricks during an event in the early 1990s in Gloversville.
The Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors named Kilmer president and CEO after a nationwide search in January.
Kilmer had been involved with the Fulton County chamber for more than two decades. Most recently, he served on the chamber Board of Directors until January 2012 and had been the treasurer of the Board of Directors for more than a decade. Before that, he served on the Fulton County Chamber Board of Directors in the 1990s. He served as the board chairman in 1995 and 1996.
His community service includes serving as vice chairman of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and a board member of the Crossroads Incubator Corp. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Mountain Valley Hospice and the Gloversville Economic Development Corp., and is president of the Fulton County Mineral Club and president of the Capital District Mineral Club.
He is chief karate instructor at the Fulton County YMCA/Kai Do San Sport Karate, where he holds a black belt and has taught the art for about 30 years.
He said he became involved in karate after watching and taking a class on it while at FMCC.
"Karate is an absolutely wonderful thing," Kilmer said. "It is revitalizing and is an exercise that serves multiple purposes."
Among Kilmer's accomplishments during his tenure as interim president was organizing the retreat for the chamber Board of Directors, realigning and merging the staffs of both chambers of commerce, establishing strong relationships with members, and developing and maintaining beneficial contacts with local and state organizations and elected officials.
Kilmer is a resident of Johnstown and graduate of Johnstown High School. He also is an alumnus of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, where he graduated with a degree in liberal arts.
Kilmer is president of Edgerson Inc., which operates several companies, including self-service car washes in Gloversville and Johnstown.
Edgerson also operates a business that sells rocks, minerals and fossils to collectors and museums all over the country.
Paleontology and geology have been an interest of Kilmer since he was a young child. His parents purchased the book "All About Dinosaurs" by Roy Chapman Andrews for him when he was 7 years old.
"From that day forward, all I wanted to do was dig up dinosaurs in China," Kilmer said. "That was my total interest to go dig in the ground for fossils and rocks. I was fortunate enough to have parents that could take me places to do that."
He eventually found that business and promoting the area was his interest.
"I wanted to go to college to become a professional geologist, but I didn't do that, and my life took another turn," Kilmer said. "Although that never happened, it has always remained an interest and eventually morphed into a business."
Chamber present and future
Kilmer says he will focus on developing a strategic plan for the organization.
"One of my priorities will be to develop a two- to three-year strategic plan for the chamber. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to build, along with chamber staff and the Board of Directors, the best business organization in the region supporting our members and their businesses," Kilmer said.
Since the chambers have merged into a regional chamber, it will look to have a bigger role in advocacy and be more involved in governmental affairs, business and economic development, Kilmer said.
Kilmer said the combined chamber will increase its effort to reach out to the smaller communities on the fringes of the two counties.
Kilmer said the combined chamber has about 1,200 members. He said he hopes to bring the membership total to about 1,700 over the next several years.
"I love geographically where we are," Kilmer said. "The fact that we are just an hour and a half from some of the most beautiful mountains in the entire world and just a short drive to the most cultured city in the world [New York City]. I do believe there is a lot of future here."
Kilmer said he hopes to help the chamber develop a small- business resource center.
"We would have a copy and fax machine where people wouldn't have to spend thousands to purchase one of their own." Kilmer said. "They could also have access to a central meeting room. That is something that still needs some thought, but it is something we are looking into."
"It would be a one-stop shop for people looking to get into business," Kilmer added.