Written by Walter L. Johnson II
Almost one full month into 2012, change has come to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Such changes have recently reached the top, as Catherine Glover left her job as President and CEO of the chamber at the start of the New Year, to take a position as the Vice President of Global Business Development at Equinox Chemicals.
But the changes don’t end at the top within the Chamber, as Jenny Collins, who served as the assistant to the president up until the end of 2011, left to become the Marketing and Communications Manager of the CVB to start 2012.
If that wasn’t enough, Deborah Bowie, replaced the late Wendy Martin as the Chamber’s Senior Director of Public Policy and Communications in June 2011. Martin died in May 2011 after a long battle with cancer.
It was just time to make a change
Glover, who started her new position at Equinox on Jan. 9, says that after more than two decades of working in chambers of commerce, it was simply time for a change.
“After almost a quarter of a century doing what I do, which is economic development and working with businesses, thousands of businesses, over that time, it was just time to make a change,” explained Glover.
“Although I wasn’t looking for this opportunity, when it came to my doorstep, it was absolutely ideal,” Glover added. “I could stay here in Albany, and I could work alongside a business owner that is growing, and someone that believes in Albany as much as I do.”
From the Chamber to the CVB
After working with the Chamber for almost 10 years, including the last several years as being the Assistant to the President, Jenny Collins began her tenure with the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau as its marketing and communications manager at the start of this year.
An Albany native, Collins says her passion for understanding the needs of customers drew her to her current position with the CVB.
“I have always loved that field in relating to the consumer, and trying to see what the market is wanting, and providing it, so I’ve always had an interest in that,” Collins said.
Additionally, Collins added, the opportunity to sell her hometown to potential tourists and residents is the one of the things she likes most about her job.
“The aspect that really attracted me (to the position) is selling Albany to visitors, letting them know what we have to offer, and hopefully, make them love it as much I love it.”
Collins says that things are starting to come together for the CVB, including the formation of multiple committees.
“We’re really starting to, really build the committees that we have,” explained Collins, “with the hospitality committee, the sports marketing committee, really promoting Albany as a destination for some motor coaches.
“So we’ve got some wonderful ideas, down the pipeline in 2012, and I’m looking forward to working on all of them.”
Giving Georgia a “competitive” advantage
Although she has only been on the job for more than seven months, Deborah Bowie has already seen a significant difference between Albany, and her previous hometown of Birmingham, Ala.
“The Albany community is a “family-centric” community,” Bowie said. “I’m the mother of small children, of triplets. So, we were just in love with the community from the first visit here. It’s a great place to raise children, and it’s a town of convenience.
“I think that an outsider, you have a different perspective about what a community offers. To me, Albany is beautiful, has a moderate temperature, it’s located not too far from the beach, not too far from Orlando, it’s a great location.
“The industry here is diverse enough where I think the community has some layers of protection, that you don’t have all of your industry sectors in one place.”
Bowie also believes that a new initiative designed to help foster economic development throughout Georgia could help Albany and southwest Georgia a competitive advantage in the coming years.
“What there has not been is a comprehensive economic development initiative strategy,” Bowie said, “that now seems to be front and center in (Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s) administration, it’s a plan that we support.
Protecting Albany’s status as a “Tier 1” community is also a high priority with the Chamber, Bowie added.
“We are also on the record with our legislative agenda to say to the Governor, that we want to protect as a “Tier 1” community,” Bowie said. “That is a status that we cannot afford to lose.
“It allows us certain incentives that other communities do not have, and so we see (2012) as a huge opportunity, not just for the state of Georgia, but particularly for regions of the state that will benefit from what we will know will happen in Savannah.”
What does what happens in Savannah have to do with what eventually might happen in Albany? Bowie says that has to do with the potential widening of the port in coastal Georgia’s largest city.
“Even (Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed) has been on record supporting the widening, (the) deepening of the Savannah port, because we all understand that all regions of Georgia together, can be a very strong player on the economic development, international stage, if we make all the right investments.”
Encouraging new ideas
Although her tenure as the President and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is over, Glover’s quest to bring meaningful jobs to Albany is far from over.
As a Massachusetts native who has called southwest Georgia home since late 2008, she encourages longtime residents and newcomers to accept people with new ideas, as well as new ways of thinking.
“Although I’ve only lived in Albany a little more than three years now, it is my home. My parents have lived in Fitzgerald, and they’ve been (there) almost 18 years now.
“So, coming here, and staying here, and wanting to be here, is important, and I encourage the residents of Albany, and the businesses of Albany, to embrace people like me, who come in with new ideas and new opportunities, and don’t want to leave, and accept change.
“I’d like to say how much I appreciate living here, and I appreciate this community,” Glover said. “I appreciate the close-knit family feel, the quality of life truly, that we have here, and the ability to stay in this community, and to be successful with a very successful company.”