By Bryant Becker and Mark Anspach
Since 1937, the local Chamber of Commerce has promoted area business and commerce interests. With more than 500 businesses as members, the reach of the Chamber is wide, and its new executive director aims to expand this influence even further.
Tracy Lyons, who became executive director in December, believes the Chamber has to work harder to explain its role and potential power.
“People need to know who the Chamber is,” she said. “They need to know what we are here for and that we are supporting them.”
One of Lyons’ first major initiatives with the Chamber was to establish a marketing committee and collaborate with a team of graphic designers to create a new logo. The result is an illustration of a door, representing the Chamber’s role as a front door to the community.
Lyons will face many challenges in her new position, including financial ones. The nonprofit organization reported a $15,000 deficit in 2013, according to its latest Form 990, in part because of a drop in revenue from member dues.
Lyons plans to combat the financial issues by strengthening the impact of marketing. At the organization’s annual meeting in November, the Chamber will announce a new strategic plan focusing on networking events. Specifically, the Chamber plans to host events for young people, such as wellness and career days, business and educational networking opportunities, and other events teaching individuals how to promote themselves.
The Chamber is also working on an economic development program called Rockbridge 2020, to urge former residents of Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County to come back and establish their businesses in the area. All of this is with an eye toward getting these people to stay and help Rockbridge County’s local economy thrive.
Lyons succeeded as executive director Sammy Moore, who retired Dec. 30 after 20 years in the position. Lyons had previously worked for the national headquarters of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, directing public relations, communications and programs. Lyons was also instrumental in the 2010 move of ODK’s national headquarters from Lexington, Ky., to Lexington, Va., where it was founded in 1914.
While she was at ODK, Lyons served as a member of the Chamber board and worked on several of its committees and events. As Moore’s retirement loomed, Lyons’ name was one that was put forward to replace him.
“I love our community and I wanted to see it thriving”, Lyons said when asked about her reaction to the offer of the position.
While Lyons said she had a short mentorship period under Moore, her time working under his leadership prepared her to steer the Chamber of Commerce in a new direction. Neither Moore nor Chamber President John Hennis could be reached for comment.