Q1: What is your connection to Rome? What strengths have you experienced from the Rome and Floyd County community?
JK: I’m a native Roman; I grew up in West Rome. My dad moved my mom here right after the Navy. He and my mom had just married, and they moved in 1954…because a job opportunity brought him to Rome, Georgia. And thus I was born here 10 years later.
I love Rome. I love the people, I love the energy. I love the fact that we have diverse industry here, with lots of different sectors [represented]. But I also love the fact that we have five college campuses here. I think our energy is young and fun, and I love that; I love the sense of curiosity. I love how walkable Rome and Floyd County is. I love that you can enjoy the downtown and get out and walk anywhere. And you can live downtown and walk to work. And it offers great education opportunities and great job opportunities.
Q2: With the recent changes in your economic development model, what will the Chamber’s focus be under your leadership?
JK: Our focus is always our members. We have over 900 businesses that are members of the Chamber. We work to support them day in and day out. We are the advocate for business. We represent our members at the state level with issues like education, transportation. We’re great partners with the school systems here. We represent our companies nationally with issues that they’re concerned about. So really our focus has always been to serve our members, and we will continue to do that.
Q3: What benefits do small businesses get with their involvement in the Chamber?
JK: Great question! We love our small businesses, and one of the major benefits is just the amount of advertising and exposure that they get through the Chamber. We promote them every day through our website, our magazine, through member to member events. We just had one earlier. And we try to connect those folks with each other and make sure that everybody in the community knows who’s providing what product and service, so that they’ll go there and shop first. And ‘Shop Rome’ is a big part of our initiative to support small businesses and retailers in all of Rome and Floyd County. But also we’re always looking to recruit talent and to help those startups that are locating here. And that will be something that we work on even more in the days to come; because we want to make sure people are aware of the talent that is here, but also that attracts more talent. So we’re looking forward to that.
Q4: Can you talk about the strengths of your current staff at the Chamber?
JK: Yes! I’ve got to give a shoutout to all the staff!
Ken Wright is our Director of Business & Industry Services, and he does a phenomenal job. Among his strengths is that he comes from a manufacturing background, so for him to work with assisting the industries is just tremendous, and he serves us so well. And also he works closely with the college and career academy here, so there’s a great synergy that goes on, understanding what job demands are and matching those to train students in those jobs. So he does a fantastic job.
Heather Seckman, who is our Director of Economic Development, is phenomenal. You can ask her what size a pipeline is, or how many miles in a certain site, and she will have that answer lickitysplit! She is just so talented. She has been here a while, and she really understands how the whole prospect/recruitment [process] works when people are looking at Rome and Floyd County.
We have Scotty Clark, our Director of Finance. He does just a great job for us, because we are a dues-paying organization, so he keeps all that straight. He is just fantastic.
Amber West is our Communications Coordinator. She does such a great job with Momentum Magazine, with the Business Brief, with Social Media. She makes sure our message is consistent and out there for the entire community.
Lori Magnicheri is our Executive Assistant; and she does our leadership programs, which is so important because we have High School Leadership Rome and then Leadership Rome, and all of that allows us to tell our stories and to show the entire community the inner workings of Rome and Floyd County. So that’s extremely important.
Taylor Ritchie, our Receptionist, is out front here for us. And she does a great job. She is so incredibly bright and just really helps our members understand our software and what it has to offer them. Also she takes care of our member listings…so it’s making sure everybody’s information is going out correctly.
So we all work as a team very well. And that’s part of the fun: getting to take a team approach to our events such as Young Professionals, Ambassadors, different committees that we have, Small Business Action Counsel. So were really excited to be able to do that. We have a great team.
Q5: What new and exciting things can you share that are planned for the Chamber in 2019?
JK: One was fun this morning–we had a monthly member meeting, where we brought in members and really engaged them in all that’s going on with the Chamber and had a time to hear from them and for us to show ways that we are promoting their businesses and referring them on a daily basis. So you’ll see those happen every month, for all members.
I think you’ll see a broader scope to our Young Professionals program. We’re excited about that. And then also I think that as we are a part of that entrepreneurial ecosystem, you’ll see us on college campuses even more, trying to relay the message of which jobs are right here in Rome and Floyd County that are exciting, that are great jobs. You can travel the world with some of these industries. So we want to make sure everybody knows what’s right here and connect the two.
Also we want to be on the high school campuses more to say, “this is an area that you might want to look at the career pathway to this job, because right now it’s in demand; so there might be a good match there.” So there’s those communication events going on, so we’ll be on school campuses relaying that message.