Chamber board leadership second to none
By Vanessa White
With the addition of President and Chief Executive Officer Katie Pushor in January, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors approved Pushor’s innovative three-year strategic plan in June. Some key points included growing and retaining membership, reaching out to mid-market businesses, and helping small businesses grow and maintaining a strong and diverse board.
Steve Rizley, chamber chair-elect and vice president and Arizona region manager of Cox Communications, said one of the things he likes about the plan is it allows the chamber, as a dynamic organization, to evolve and suit the needs of businesses in metropolitan Phoenix today.
“Our business community has changed as the overall market has changed,” Rizley notes. “I don’t know of another metropolitan area in the United States that has changed more than Phoenix has in the last 25 years. There’s more businesses, there’s more opportunities to make a good first impression because people move here constantly, and what I think Katie and her crew have done is develop a plan that is going to allow the chamber to meet the needs of this dynamic business community.”
Current Chairman of the Board Jack Davis, president and chief executive officer of APS, adds the three-year plan is focused on three aspects. “One aspect is bring more membership, then look at increasing the renewal of membership in the chamber,” Davis says. “Also, increasing the technology on our Web site to make it easier for the members to use and access the benefits we offer.”
Jack Davis, chairman of the Chamber board and President and CEO of APS Former Chamber Chair
Mark Bonsall, chief financial executive and associate general manager of SRP
Steve Rizley, chamber chair-elect and vice president and Arizona region manager of Cox Communications
|Davis notes in order to bring in more membership and increase renewals, the board is looking at programs that would be beneficial to the chamber’s mid-market members. Those with more than 100 employees, but less than 1,000. “There are not that many big businesses here. The broad base of business and the success of Phoenix is built on businesses that are 100-300 employees, so doing the best possible job for them is very important,” Rizley said.
Former Chair Mark Bonsall, chief financial executive and associate general manager of SRP, agrees. “The emphasis that came out of the three-year plan was growth and focus on the mid-market sector, which is absolutely in need of services of the chamber,” Bonsall says. “I think the chamber has done an excellent job of servicing the entire spectrum of this community in the past, and if there’s a spot we need to focus on more, it is the mid-market business.”
However, Rizley says the mid-market focus is not meant to take away from growing small businesses and providing them with needed resources. He said one of the benefits of the chamber for small- and medium-sized businesses is the ability to have a voice in a large organization with so many members.
“The vision of the chamber has to do with being able to serve and further the interests of all types of businesses in metropolitan Phoenix, which means we’re providing a more fertile ground and giving businesses the tools they need to have benefits they might not otherwise achieve,” Rizley adds.
In expanding membership, Rizley says it is important for the chamber to develop a well-respected lobbying arm to market to all businesses. “We have to be able to demonstrate there’s a value proposition that resonates with businesses,” Rizley says. “If you look at what the chamber has achieved in terms of the credibility it has built, the way it is treated when working amongst our elected officials, and how much respect it has from large corporations, I believe that is happening.”
It is universal among members that the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors’ biggest strength is diversity and the plan aims to expand this even further. “We are a very large board with large businesses, small businesses, utilities, technology and all the other kinds of businesses we have in the Valley,” Davis adds. “That brings a tremendous amount of thinking to the chamber.”
Rizley concurs about board diversity. “Our board represents many different types of companies and represents many different types of interests and backgrounds. I think it represents every type of political affiliation,” he explains. “Because the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce has a bigger representation from other Valley chambers, there’s also lots of geographic interests at the table.”
Rizley uses the example of the Southeast Valley compared to north Scottsdale. He said the two are mercurially different in terms of lifestyle and a lot of aspects as to why people choose to live and work in each.
“It is important to have a board that represents those interests and I think we’ve done a good job of meeting them,” Rizley says. Bonsall says the diversity is also a strength because it keeps the board active. “Everybody is encouraged to be on the committees and go to the different meetings,” Bonsall adds. “It’s a gathering place for consensus building.”
Davis says the three-year plan comes complete with instruments to measure the plan’s success and he is confident in the chamber’s future. “This is not a business plan that is pie in the sky,” Davis notes. “This is a plan where we can and will measure our success.”
Bonsall is equally optimistic about the plan and the chamber’s future under Pushor’s leadership. “With this three-year business plan and new leadership of Katie, the future of the chamber is the brightest it’s ever been. The sky is the limit with our chamber,” Bonsall says.
Rizley says of all of his affiliations, his chamber board position is most important. “This is the most important thing I am involved in. We believe that if business goes well, the quality of life and the opportunity to educate our kids and have everything, from sports teams to freeway systems, hangs together. People are employable in a great environment and this chamber is running right alongside these businesses, helping to create that environment, so I have a lot of optimism,” Rizley says. “The board shares that optimism.”
|Inside the Chamber
2005-2006 Board of DirectorsExecutive Committee