Zachary Chamber hires new executive director

Taylor Watts was fully engaged with her community in Conway, Arkansas, 30 minutes north of Little Rock, when life took a turn south–literally. “I was born and raised there; my whole life was there,” she said. Watts worked in marketing and real estate, but her true passion was the work she did for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas.

Taylor Watts

Taylor Watts

She brought awareness to important needs in the community by leading successful fundraising events, networking with area businesses and connecting with the community.
A whirlwind relocation in her husband’s job brought the couple and their children to Zachary, and the Zachary Chamber of Commerce quickly seized the opportunity to make use of her wide range of skills and experience. Watts officially joined the Chamber in March 2017 as their events manager. She spent the first few months reaching out to members to better understand their needs and planning around those needs, and when the executive director position came open, Watts was the obvious choice.
After attending the Association Chamber of Commerce Executives Convention in July, Watts understood the Chamber needed to refocus and rebrand. With the support of the Chamber’s 14-member board of directors, the new vision of the Chamber is to stimulate a vibrant Zachary economy by promoting the quality of life through families, education, and business advocacy while being the voice of the business community.
The Chamber wants to advocate for businesses by going before the government, using resources to fight for or against bills that impact business, and representing community business owners. That advocacy can only happen if more businesses get involved.
This year the Chamber has focused on programs that bring value to its members, and Watts believes it’s paying off. “We have increased membership by over 40 new businesses in the last month.” She said the organization is working toward a young professional program (34 and under) to develop leadership and business skills. They also have worked with LSU and the Louisiana Economic Development Council to offer Leadership NORTH, a development program for the north Baton Rouge region. The program is designed to engage emerging leaders in our region and prepare them to meet the future needs of our communities.
The Chamber’s updated mission is to promote and enhance the community and business economy in efforts to advance the Zachary area to its highest potential. While economic development is important, Watts believes a small town like Zachary needs a Chamber that is community-based. “The town is going to grow,” she said, “but you’re going to have to let the community adapt to the growth…and make sure the businesses that are here can grow their business and thrive.”

 Tommy Karam from LSU talks to Leadership NORTH participants about personal branding.


Tommy Karam from LSU talks to Leadership NORTH participants about personal branding.

Watts said the Chamber’s longstanding Ambassador Program has been given a much-needed overhaul. Ambassadors serve as mentors for other business owners and communicate with businesses on behalf of the Chamber to see if they have questions, complaints or suggestions. One change is that program candidates now complete an application and interview to be considered for the position. Ambassadors use an online point system to document their fulfillment of duties.
In turn, Watts has restructured the program to better benefit the ambassadors who are helping the Chamber. For example, a loan officer may be assigned to visit real estate agents.
For business owners who want to get involved on a smaller scale, the Chamber facilitates multiple events throughout the year. Sponsored by area restaurants, Lunch & Learns are offered to members and non-members on the first Wednesday of each month. These events provide networking opportunities and informative talks by knowledgeable professionals. August’s event, for example, featured attorney Cullen Carole speaking on the Restore Louisiana Small Business Program.
The Chamber also hosts an Open House on the last Wednesday of each month from 11am-1pm. During that time Watts provides an updated list of upcoming events, ribbon cuttings, and new members. The event is open to business owners, Chamber members and Zachary residents as well. Watts invites anyone in the community to drop in and ask questions or get to know more about the Chamber.
If a daytime meeting isn’t feasible, quarterly Off-the-Clock events are an evening opportunity to network and mingle with other business owners. A different business hosts each quarter at various locations. In August, eXp Realty teamed up with Luxe Emporium Bath and Body to host the event that included music, refreshments and a pop-up shop.

Details:

Zachary Chamber of Commerce, 4633 Main St., Zachary, LA 70791; 225-654-6777; www.zacharychamber.com; taylor@zacharychamber.com; Facebook: Zachary Chamber of Commerce; Hours: M-F 9-4.

Upcoming events include the 2017 Zachary Chamber Awards Banquet October 19, from 6-8pm. The Chamber is introducing new categories for this year’s awards which will include Emerging Business, Young Professional, Small Business, Minority Enterprise, Women in Business, Business Lifetime Achievement, and Business of the Year. Nominated businesses will complete an interview form that will be sent to a chamber in a different city for judging. The Rotary Club will also present their Citizen of the Year Award at the banquet.
Chamber Notes • The Zachary Chamber newsletter will now be coming out on Mondays, and the website is under construction and will be revealed very soon. • Membership renewals will be going out in October and are due by January 1, 2018. • A City of Zachary Annual Golf Tournament is in the works for 2018. Other events being planned include a fishing tournament, Bowling for Business, business workshops, and more.

In December, the Chamber will host the Gleaux Run, which helps fund parks and recreation in the city. The Zachary Christmas parade will close out the Chamber’s calendar year. The Chamber fully funds the insurance and officials required for the parade and hopes businesses will help keep this highly-anticipated community event by joining the Chamber as members and/or sponsoring a float in the parade.
The theme for the annual Christmas parade which will march down Main Street on Saturday, December 9, is “Songs of Christmas.” Cost for entry is $125 for non-chamber members and $100 for Chamber members. Deadline for entry is November 20. For more information and entry forms, contact the Chamber office.

By Holly Felter Rabalais

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