Hardy Sets Priorities for Albany Area Chamber of Commerce

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Leadership development, membership engagement and public relations have emerged as top priorities for Chris Hardy in his first three months as president and chief operating officer of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.  Hardy spent much of his time since he began work on April 30 meeting with members and staff to get their feedback on the Chamber's effectiveness.

"I've met with a variety of people in the community to understand their thoughts and concerns," Hardy said.  "I heard many say their Chamber needs to do a better job helping to guide community leaders.  That's always a need in any community.  In particular, we need to help foster the growth of future leaders."

According to Hardy, the Chamber has been working behind the scenes for a while to develop leadership programs that complement Leadership Albany.  Youth leadership development, which includes development of upperclassmen in high school and undergraduates in college, is a high-priority area.

"We want young people to stay here in Albany.  The goal of youth leadership development is to help retain the best talent," Hardy said.

More Face-to-Face Conversations
Gauging the needs and perceptions of Chamber members consistently is another priority for Hardy.  He believes meetings with members should be held monthly, weekly or as often as needed – not annually.

"We need to stay in front of our members through face-to-face conversations," Hardy said.  "Their needs change frequently and we need to stay informed."

Hardy envisions holding roundtable programs in which 15 to 20 members are invited to lunch to discuss specific issues as well as general needs.  Two-way interaction is the key.

Better Job of Telling the Chamber Story
In meeting with people throughout the community, Hardy and other Chamber staff are often asked what does the Chamber do.  According to Hardy, that's a problem.

"As the Chamber gets more involved with important issues, people tend to overlook the basic premise of what the Chamber is here for.  It's not the first time I've seen that happen, but we must do a better job of telling our story," Hardy said.

Hardy wants the business community to recognize the Chamber as a resource.  Their mission is to improve and advance Albany's quality of life, economic development and work force development.

To that end, the Chamber is re-evaluating its programs and events to ensure each one serves at least one of two purposes: providing value to members or creating economic impact for the community.

"Programs on our calendar that do not meet one of these two criteria will be changed.  For example, our end-of-year black-tie barbeque program will be redesigned into a leadership development program," Hardy said.

Committed to Public Service
Hardy also met with Chamber staff during his first three months on the job.  He came away extremely impressed with the level of professionalism and ownership among Chamber employees.

"It's not just a job to our staff.  It's a career and more importantly, they view themselves as public servants.  And that's just how I wanted it," Hardy said.

More information on the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is available at www.albanyga.com.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.