Shannon L. Meyer, 35, began as president and chief executive officer of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce in January. A Wisconsin native, Meyer most recently served as president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa chamber. Before that, she led chambers in Melbourne, Fla., and Twin Cities North in Minnesota. Insight News Editor MaryBeth Matzek talked with her on plans to enhance economic development.
I’ve been active in chamber organizations for awhile so I was familiar with the Fox Cities and what a dynamic business community this is. When the opportunity came up to move here from Iowa, I couldn’t pass it up.
I was drawn to the Fox Cities for a lot of reasons that many people are – the quality of life. I enjoy being outdoors and my fiancé is a big fisherman, so being here – and being back closer to my family – is a huge plus. There are great schools and health care systems, plus the crime rate is low. Our quality of life really sets us apart.
The Fox Cities is such a vibrant group of communities. Right now, I’m in the exploration phase and getting out there and talking to leaders and business owners about how they see us growing. I’m all about economic development. The chamber has strong legislative and educational programs in place, but one area where we can do a lot more is in regard to economic development.
The chamber needs to work together with local businesses and local leaders as well as our regional partners in moving economic development forward. As a chamber, we’re going to focus on a number of areas, including the expansion of existing companies and the recruitment of new companies. It’s very important as we compete on a global stage that we all work together.
Successful economic development is about relationships. That’s why we as a chamber strive to work closely with all of our members. I want to really focus on reaching out and doing retention meetings – I’ve already told all of our staff members here that they’ll need to be a part of that effort. Whatever your job, you’ll have to go out and meet with a few members to find out how things are going, what their needs and concerns are, all that kind of stuff. We’re a membership organization and we really need to listen to our members.
We’re also doing more about meeting with companies who have their headquarters here and companies who have a large workforce here but may not have their headquarters here, like Kimberly-Clark. We want to make sure we as a business community are meeting their needs and if we’re not, what we can do. We need to stay out in front of them and be top of mind so if an expansion is being considered, they’ll think of the Fox Cities first.
The chamber is all about jobs – we need to be pro-active and take a balanced approach working with businesses by strengthening current relationships and striving to create new ones. Everyone realizes change is needed to move the area forward. I’m trying to figure out what members want and then my job is figuring out how to get there. We’ll make decisions based on research and data and get our volunteers more involved.
Collaboration and innovation are essential to the future of the Fox Cities. We need to create a culture of innovation that gets people to invest their lives and businesses in the Fox Cities.
I can’t stress enough the importance of economic development. Right now, the Fox Cities is underinvested when it comes to economic development compared to other markets our size. We need to do more and make that initial investment. It’s not just one community that benefits when an employer expands or decides to come here – it’s the whole area, and with that in mind, we can all work together.