Written by Walter Johnson
The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce has a new President and CEO, and he hails from the upstate region of South Carolina.
At a press conference last Friday, the Chamber’s board of directors picked Chris Hardy to lead their organization. He replaces Catherine Glover, who resigned in January to become the Vice President of Global Development for Equinox Chemicals. His first day on job will be on April 30.
Hardy comes to Southwest Georgia from the Clemson (S.C.) Area Chamber of Commerce, where he currently serves as that chamber’s President and CEO. He graduated from Francis Marion University in 1992.
When asked why Hardy was chosen out of around 50 candidates, 2012 Chairman Miles Espy explained: “Although, we had several excellent candidates to consider, I was very pleased that the search committee came to a unanimous decision to select Chris Hardy as our President and CEO.”
Espy added, “Likewise, our executive committee and board of directors voted unanimously to hire Chris. I am looking forward to his leadership and the positive impact he will have our membership and the business community at large.”
Hardy says the reputation that the Albany chamber has nationwide was a key factor in accepting the top job.
“Having an opportunity to lead the Albany Area Chamber and business community is a dream come true for me,” Hardy said. “The reputation that the (AACOC) has in our industry is second to none and it will be responsibility to make sure that continues.”
Increasing the membership at the Clemson chamber, as well as being involved in economic development and tourism efforts in the upstate South Carolina region, also factored in the decision to hire Hardy, Espy said.
“During his time (in Clemson), the membership of the chamber doubled under his leadership,” explained Espy. “He has been very actively involved in regional efforts, as he was selected by seven chambers of commerce in Oconee and Pickens County (S.C.) to serve as the lead administrator and spokesperson for the Oconee Pickens Chamber Coalition.
“His experience as a CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) director was particularly important, as (the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce) is responsible for the operations of the (Albany Area Convention and Visitors Bureau).”
Hardy sees two challenges in attracting new industry, as well as new business, to Albany and Southwest Georgia.
“One of the challenges that Albany faces that will be the chamber’s responsibility is not to only promote Albany to the best of our ability, but to also celebrate what Albany has to offer. It is vital that we celebrate our successes as often as possible locally, regionally, and nationally.
Added Hardy, “When companies are looking to relocate, they want to make sure of several things. 1. That they will have a quality workforce. That will be our job in working with the public education, higher education, and the technical college system to ensure Albany has a qualified workforce to fit their needs.
“2. They want to know that their employees will have adequate resources to maintain a high quality of life. This will also be one of our responsibilities to ensure we are working closely with the (Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission) to promote out natural resources, outdoor activities, cultural heritage and lifestyle to show them we deserve serious consideration.”
Hardy says he’s looking forward to the challenge of moving to Georgia, and leading the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
“My wife and I are very excited about becoming part of the Albany and Dougherty County community and I look forward to serving the Chamber for many years to come.”
Albany Area Chamber of Commerce has named Chris Hardy as its new President and CEO. (Photo: Betty Rehberg)