- Tell us a little bit about yourself, background, how you ended up in Delray Beach working for the Chamber.
I drove to Delray from Maryland in 1987 to check on a friend’s vacation home and loved it here. I pursued a career in television news and ended up developing a career in media relations. When Eric and I had our son, I worked from a home office. I missed “the workplace.” The Delray Beach Chamber was looking for communications help and offered me a job. When the leadership changed, I served as Interim President and CEO. I thought I’d help for a few months. We ventured into a Capital Campaign, built new office space and meeting rooms and rebranded. We were thriving and I fell in love with the people and our mission. I’ve grown a great deal personally and professionally thanks to a wonderful team.
- Many believe Chambers are becoming less and less relevant. What makes the Chamber a relevant organization to be a part of if you are a business owner?
Nationally, Chambers talk about relevancy, since the industry dates back more than 100 years. In Delray, we’re staying relevant by building tremendous relationships with our members. As we get to know each one personally, we’re able to deliver programs and services that truly help them. We are a warm and welcoming group. We not only educate, guide and assist – we encourage. Business leaders need encouragement. We know how our members’ businesses are doing; how their spouses are, how their kids are and where they ate Friday night. The more you know people, the better you can cater to their needs.
Every business person should be a part of their local Chamber. People join for a zillion reasons, yet they can be categorized in two segments (according to expert Kyle Sexton). Either they “give to” the Chamber, or they want to “get from” the Chamber. The “give to” group joins because they want to support the work that we do each day—assisting businesses, residents and tourists. Others join because they want to “get from.” They need help launching a business, they want new customers/prospects, or to take a class, etc. We love both segments.
The Chamber of Commerce is like no other group. Almost every aspect of the city intersects with the Chamber – government affairs, City services, economic development, education (every age), non profits, parks & recreation, healthcare, restaurants, hotels, tourism, arts & culture, churches, special events, Leadership Delray, drug task force – you name it. They all come together at the Chamber.
- What are the Chamber’s goals for 2017?
Each year we do an annual plan – always wanting to grow and improve. We are expanding our roundtables so more people can get personalized help with their business. You’ll see more added for a variety of industries and ages. We continue to re-invent almost every aspect of our business – including each program, to keep it meaningful for our members and guests.
We’ve built relationships with incredible entrepreneurs, so you’ll see more programs for them. Delray Beach gained national awards like “Most Fun Small Town in America.” Next, I’d like us to be known as “Most Fun Town to be an Entrepreneur.”
Where there are good jobs–people want to live–and where people want to live–people want to vacation…it’s a cycle and good jobs are critical to it.
- What are the biggest complaints coming from the business community about the City? What are the positive remarks?
The complaints we hear are usually related to the process of opening a business—the physical location. We hear about the amount of time it takes to present projects before multiple boards and the permitting process. We know City officials have heard this and are discussing. When a business wants to invest in your community and bring jobs, we need to make their lives a bit easier. If we don’t – other cities will. So I’m hoping we’ll see improvements there.
The positive remarks we hear are usually about the “vibe” of Delray. People love the downtown and also talk more and more about Delray Marketplace (west), and places north and south of the downtown, too. We also get a lot of positive feedback when people visit the Chamber personally. Tourists, residents and business owners get a sense of Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.” We give our guests and members a great deal of personal attention and they love it.
- What is the best part about your job? What is the most challenging part?
I love the people in our town—they have a helpful, collaborative spirit. I also enjoy the industry professionals I meet throughout the region and nationally. And that no day is the same. Often every hour is drastically different. I can be corresponding with a Senator, helping kids in need, advising young entrepreneurs, booking speakers and then do an opening of a cool new business – sometimes all within the same couple of hours!
The challenging part is you can never really unplug. Early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays, vacations – the phone, email, texts – they never stop. Ever. There is always something going on that needs to be addressed, solved, or answered. And with 1,000 plus members, 60,000 residents, and thousands of tourists – there’s never a dull moment!