President & Chief Executive Officer

The Chamber

The Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) is a multi-faceted 501(c)6 organization with a mission to be the voice of business while fostering cooperating partnerships and enhancing members’ value. The Chamber’s vision is to be the leading influence promoting a positive climate to strengthen the prosperity of the Savannah region by establishing a business environment that is recognized as the best in the nation. The Chamber serves a growing 3-county, 405,000-population region and represents over 2,200 member firms which together employ over 120,000 people throughout the area. The Chamber benefits from an outstanding membership retention rate of 90%.

In this post-COVID environment, the Chamber’s strategic priorities for the Savannah area include develop a quality workforce; governmental advocacy; leadership development; regional focus on common needs; grow diversity and outreach; grow and support small business; support military throughout the region; and secure greater membership feedback. The Chamber’s extensive volunteer engagement includes a number of Councils dedicated to important community matters including: Ambassadors; CEO Council; Governmental Affairs; Leadership Savannah and Graduate Leadership Savannah; Manufacturers; Military Affairs; Owners Council; Public Relations; Small Business; Sports; Trustees; and Visit Savannah & Visit Tybee.

The Savannah Area Chamber works on a number of major fronts and in collaborative partnership:

  • Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber provides a variety of member programs and services including networking, communication and relationship building events, leadership programs, workforce and educational partnership programs and government advocacy activities.
  • Visit Savannah & Visit Tybee: These entities are under the Chamber’s corporate structure and provide convention and visitors bureau services, while developing, marketing, and promoting Savannah’s meeting facilities, arts and culture, historic qualities, and tourism potential to contribute to the Savannah area’s economy. As a destination location, annual visitors are nearly 13.9MM, and Savannah and nearby Tybee Island have a $3+BB impact on the local economy.
  • Military Affairs: The Savannah area is uniquely positioned by having all five U.S. military branches represented locally, with an annual economic impact of over $5BB. Fort Stewart, located just outside the Savannah MSA, is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi River, and Hunter Army Airfield account for three-fourths of the military employment in the area.
  • Savannah Area Chamber Foundation: This 501(c)3 affiliate seeks to foster education, training and research to advance the economic, social and civic well-being of the Savannah area.

Formal economic development activities are managed by a separate entity, the Savannah Economic Development Authority. SEDA is a public-private economic development organization with a mission to help create, grow, and attract new job opportunities and investment in the Savannah region. The Chamber and SEDA work closely together to mutually support each other’s efforts and programs.

The Chamber has a 47-member Board of Directors with a combined chamber and convention and visitors bureau budget of over $13MM and 40+ employees.

More information on the Chamber and on Visit Savannah & Visit Tybee can be found on these websites:

  • Savannah Area Chamber: www.savannahchamber.com
  • Visit Savannah: www.visitsavannah.com
  • Visit Tybee: www.visittybee.com

Bill Hubbard has served as the Chamber’s President & Chief Executive Officer for over 20 years and has announced his plan to retire once his successor is appointed. The Board of Directors has therefore embarked on a national search to recruit a new CEO who will guide the Chamber’s multi-faceted impact on the Savannah regional community.

Savannah, Georgia

Founded in 1733, Savanah is the oldest city in the State of Georgia and today is a significant economic driver based on its substantial number of visitors, diverse industrial, service, and hospitality industries along with a major Atlantic seaport. With a city population of 148,000 and a 3-county metropolitan region of over 405,000 that has grown 16% since 2010, Savannah is the third largest city in Georgia. Located on the Savannah River and at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Interstate 16, Savannah is an important transportation hub. The Georgia Ports Authority operates the leading container export in the country with the largest container capacity in the western hemisphere. The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is served by 11 airlines which provide nonstop service to 37 destinations across the country.

Savannah benefits from a diverse economy. The area’s key industries include advanced manufacturing, aerospace, entertainment production, health tech, creative and technical services, healthcare, logistics and distribution, marine, leisure and hospitality, specialty food and beverage manufacturing. Major employers in the area include Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Georgia-Pacific Savannah River Mill, Memorial Health University Medical Center, St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, Georgia Ports Authority, and Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield. The area’s educational institutions include the world-renowned Savannah College of Art & Design (“SCAD”), Georgia Southern University, Savannah State University, Georgia Tech Savannah and other technical and professional colleges. Savannah is coastal Georgia’s regional hub for business, education, healthcare, retail, hospitality, services, and entertainment.

The Savannah area economy has benefitted from significant private and public sector investment. This includes a $270MM expansion of the Savannah Convention Center and a $101MM planned expansion of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. In addition, Hyundai Motor Group recently announced they will open their first fully dedicated electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility in nearby Bryan County, representing an investment of $5.5BB and creation of approximately 8,100 new jobs.

Savannah is well-known and cherished for its natural beauty, signature coastal cuisines, one-of-a-kind boutiques, historic architecture, and a plethora of attractions that draw visitors from around the world. Residents of Savannah appreciate an outstanding quality of life based on a cost of living that remains well below national average, diverse population, low commute times, year-round warmth, ample green space, excellent healthcare, and southern charm. There are numerous choices for K-12 education including public and private schools. Arts and culture include community festivals, museums, theatre, live music, film festivals, and more art galleries per capita than New York City. World class golf courses surround Savannah and just 25 minutes from downtown is Tybee Island with miles of oceanfront beaches.

Savannah has received significant national recognition for its business climate and quality of life. Recent accolades include Travel + Leisure’s list of “Top U.S. Cities,” U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Places to Visit in the USA,” Conde Nast Travelers’s list of “Best Small U.S Cities,” Southern Living’s list of “The South’s Prettiest Cities” and MSN’s list of “America’s Most Scenic Waterfronts.”

More information on the Savannah area can be found on the following websites:

The Position

Location

The President & Chief Executive Officer position is based in the Chamber offices at 101 E. Bay Street, Savannah, Georgia 31401

Reporting Relationships

The President & Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of the Chamber reports to the Chair of the 13-member Executive Committee of the Chamber’s 47-member Board of Directors; both the Executive Committee and the full Board meet monthly. The CEO also serves on the 11-member Executive Committee of the 28-member Board of Directors of Visit Savannah & Visit Tybee (“VS/VT”).

The CEO will lead the Chamber staff with direct supervision of: President-VS/VT (who also reports to the VS/VT Board of Directors); Chief Financial Officer; Vice President-Community Affairs & In-House Counsel; Vice President-Governmental Affairs; Business Development Director; Manager-Membership Relations; Building Operations Manager; Small Business & Events Manager; Executive Assistant & Office Manager. There are 40+ total employees of the Chamber, 30+ of whom work with various VS/VT activities including Visitor Center staff.

Other important interactions include: executives and employees of member organizations; municipal, county, state, and Federal elected and appointed officials; representatives of other public and private sector organizations with related community, visitor and tourism and economic development missions; education officials; military leaders; and members of the media.

Position Charter

The President & Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) is responsible for the overall leadership and management of the Savannah Area Chamber and its affiliate organizations, Visit Savannah, Visit Tybee, and the Foundation. The CEO position has a strong external focus, serving as a key spokesperson and advocate for the Savannah regional business community while successfully operating at the highest levels of influence with key government, legislative and business leaders.

Major Duties and Responsibilities

The President & CEO is the chief executive and administrative officer of the entire organization. This executive is responsible to the Board of Directors for the full range of Chamber programs and activities including coordination of membership sales and retention, public affairs, communications and research, visitor development and marketing, small business and leadership development programs, finance, and accounting. Other responsibilities include:

  • Programs, Services and Operations: Responsible for ongoing evaluation and delivery of all Chamber programs and services, with equal focus on quality and value to members and the community at large, along with sound fiscal benefit to the overall organization. Provide for an efficient office operation and present an attractive “front door” for the use of members and visitors.
  • Communication: Serve as a key spokesperson for the Chamber and communicate positions on community, public and political issues as appropriate. Participate in community activities to provide for continued development of the business and professional community and the maintenance and enhancement of the Chamber’s image within the Savannah area and State of Georgia. Continuously assure outstanding and on-going communication with all members through on-site visits, publications, emails, social media and in concert with local media.
  • Visitor Development Marketing: Delegate the day-to-day administration to the President of Visit Savannah & Visit Tybee (“VS/VT”), the entities accountable for convention and meeting sales and service, tourism promotion, and visitor development for the City of Savannah, Tybee Island, and the Savannah area along with staffing Visitor Center locations.
  • Membership Development: Oversight of sales, service, and retention programs; includes activities of the volunteer Councils including the Ambassador and other volunteer Councils related to the Membership Relations such as the Military, Small Business, Owners, and others. Seek to drive the development of member value proposition that reflects the diversity of the metropolitan region.
  • Public Affairs and Advocacy: Engaging with elected officials and their staffs at the municipal, county, state and federal levels to advocate on issues of importance to the Chamber membership; communication of community and economic information; lobbying for approved Chamber issues and initiatives; and supporting Chamber Governmental Affairs programs.
  • Fiscal: Ensure sound financial management for the Chamber and VS/VT. Direct and assist in the development of the Chamber’s annual $13+MM budget with the CFO, President-VS/VT, and Executive Committee, securing Board approval each fiscal year. Implement the approved budget and monitor results on a monthly basis (or more frequently as appropriate). Advise the Board as to the reasons for significant variances to the approved budget.
  • Strategic and Annual Planning: Assist in the development and implementation of the Chamber’s Annual and Strategic Plan through the staff and volunteer leadership and recommend its approval by the Chamber Board annually. Ensure that the Plan is continually updated to reflect changing economic conditions and/or governing philosophies.
  • Volunteers: Effectively recruit, motivate, and inspire volunteers to creative and fruitful action. Work in concert with Board members on key volunteer leader identification and training.
  • Staff Leadership: Selection, development, and motivation of a competent staff and appropriate supervision of and communication with employees. Responsible for training, performance appraisals and salary recommendations for direct reports, and for ensuring that these functions are provided for the remainder of the staff.
  • Constituent Relationships: Responsible for ongoing interaction, collaboration and liaison with a wide constituency including:
    • Board of Directors: Responsible for preparing meeting agendas, implementing approved plans and programs in accordance with established policies, serving as representative of the Board for all contacts with staff, initiating programs for Board consideration, and advising the Board on all matters under consideration.
    • Key Employers: Develop and maintain ongoing relationships with key employers and business leaders to stay informed regarding ongoing and future issues/challenges/opportunities.
    • Government Officials: Maintain strong communications and relationships with elected and appointed officials and their staffs in the City of Savannah, Bryan, Chatham and Effingham Counties, other municipalities, communities, and counties throughout the region. Maintain a high level of ongoing communication with officials at the State of Georgia and Federal levels.
    • Related Organizations: Maintain and/or initiate effective working relationships with organizations within the Savannah area, including Savannah Economic Development Authority, Greater Savannah Black Chamber, Metropolitan Savannah Area Hispanic Chamber, Tourism Leadership Council, and others. Regularly convene meetings of economic development organizations, area chambers, and key volunteers.
    • Military Affairs: Together with area volunteers, maintain and promote community-wide support for nearby Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield, and other military operations in the region. Includes strengthening military and community relationships by seeking opportunities for businesses and organizations to become more involved as well as position Savannah’s resources to maintain and improve the military’s and related businesses’ value by promoting an exemplary military/community partnership.
    • Community: Through personal contacts with key regional and community leaders, help shape the future direction and well-being of the entire Savannah area. Take a strategic leadership role in local and regional issues, projects, or community organizations to assure presence and involvement of the Chamber to accomplish its strategic objectives.
    • Education: Continue to foster stronger relationships with representatives of higher education institutions and school districts.
    • Media: Serve as an official spokesperson of the Chamber with print and social media outlets.
  • Other Duties: Perform other tasks and duties as may be assigned from time to time by the Chamber’s Board.

Compensation

The President & Chief Executive Officer is expected to earn an attractive compensation package; appropriate benefits and some relocation assistance will be provided.

The Candidate

Education

A Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree in business, law, public administration, or related field is desirable. If a candidate’s experience includes work in the chamber, association, or economic development industries, then a graduate of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management, Certified Chamber Executive designation, Certified Destination Management Executive, Certified Association Executive or Certified Economic Developer designation is desirable.

Professional Qualifications

The ideal candidate must have a proven track record of success and may come from a variety of backgrounds such as: the top executive within a progressive and effective comparably-sized chamber of commerce, convention & visitors bureau, economic development organization, or related significant business association organization; experience as a “#2” or other senior-level executive at a larger like-enterprise as noted above; an executive with a strong record of community involvement from a complex private or public sector entity. Experience with significant board interaction and experience leading large numbers of volunteers are all strongly desired.

Preferred Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Executive leadership experience (strong staff leadership, delegation, and human resource development; has led a complex corporate, community or economic development organization).
  • Collaborative relationships (demonstrated track record of developing effective relationships built on trust among all sectors and constituents).
  • Visitor/ tourism development (experience working with hospitality and destination-marketing activities).
  • Volunteer organization experience (proven ability to motivate and utilize volunteers).
  • Public policy (capable of advocating sound public policy and developing effective and even-handed working relationships with elected/appointed officials and their staffs).
  • Economic/business development (has worked collaboratively with established public sector delivery systems and private sector resources to effectively promote the economic development of a community or region).
  • Diversity/inclusion (experience with diverse groups; experience in promoting business climate that values diversity and demonstrates inclusion and equity).
  • Community/regional development (able to identify both local and regional issues and effectively manage interactions with and among regional organizations to achieve common goals).
  • Staff leadership (demonstrated background of leading, managing and developing staff; inclusive while providing basic direction; allows senior staff team to execute without excessive personal involvement.
  • Planning (proven track record of successfully developing and executing operational and strategic plans).
  • Governance (significant involvement with board development and recruitment, governance issues, and interactions with sophisticated business leaders serving as directors).
  • Fiscal management (demonstrated ability to manage financial affairs of an organization; experience with an annual budget with revenues of at least $3MM).
  • Fundraising (experience with varied successful resource development activities including capital campaigns, sponsorships and advertising, special events and other non-dues revenue campaigns).
  • Varied industries (experience within a business environment with diverse industries including visitor services, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and education).
  • Media/public relations (ability to effectively articulate goals, objectives, and policy positions of the Chamber to the media and the community).
  • Military affairs (working closely with commanders and other leaders of military installations desirable).
  • Technology (actively promotes enhancements and expansion of technology; recognizes value and potential of social media; computer literate).

Desired Personal Traits

  • Ethical (possesses the highest ethical and moral standards; trustworthy).
  • Collaborative (sees value in working with others to achieve positive results for the region; demonstrates a willingness and ability to work with and through others; tendency to be inclusive verses exclusive).
  • Communication skills (excellent listener; outstanding written and oral communication skills; strong communicator with internal and external audiences; experienced with social media tools and trends).
  • Consensus-builder (able to forge effective working relationships with various parties and encourage them to work together toward common goals).
  • Persuasive (able to synthesize various viewpoints and mobilize support for policy objectives).
  • Executive presence/credible (polished; self-confident; visible; able to command respect of Board, staff, business, government, and community leaders).
  • Equity lens (personal and professional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion).
  • Genuine (fair; self-aware; walks the talk; takes responsibility)
  • Servant leadership (excellent human relations skills; humble; builds constructive and effective relationships).
  • Energetic self-starter (genuinely enthusiastic; strong work ethic, action orientation, and a “can do” attitude).
  • Focused (pro-active; able to establish Chamber agenda and maintain key priorities).
  • Decisive (makes decisions in a timely manner and achieves desired outcomes; proactive versus reactive).
  • Executes for results (proven track record of “getting things done;” holds others accountable).
  • Regional knowledge (has or able to develop an appreciation for Southeast US culture and ways of doing business).

Challenges and Opportunity

Key accomplishments and challenges for the new President & CEO in the first year and beyond include:

  • Establish presence as the Chamber’s CEO while understanding the details of the day-to-day operations of the Chamber and becoming knowledgeable about the work of its staff, finances, programs, Board members and committed volunteers.
  • Initiate formal and informal introductions and connections with the Chamber’s membership and investors, through varied communications and in-person meetings. Communicate the Chamber’s relevancy and value to existing and prospective members by connecting investment with tangible outcomes.
  • By listening and observing, form effective working relationships with key municipal, county, state, and national government leaders; entrepreneurial business owners and corporate executives; economic, community and tourism partner organizations; college and other educational officers; military installation leaders; and leaders of cultural arts entities. Engage with Georgia Chamber of Commerce leadership and chamber colleagues nationally.
  • Articulate a vision. Work with the Board and staff to evaluate the strategic direction and efficiency of the Chamber and offer a vision for possible short- and long-term changes. Articulate ways to reinforce the organization’s mission and increase the Chamber’s value to its members.
  • Through consultation with Board and staff, consider avenues to increase non-member revenues to elevate the Chamber’s financial structure.
  • Strengthen the Chamber’s political resolve and influence; work closely with the Savannah Area Business PAC.

The President & Chief Executive Officer position is an outstanding opportunity for a chamber of commerce, economic development, association, nonprofit or private sector executive to lead and grow a successful regional Chamber organization in a growing and vibrant region. The Chamber is a complex and multi-faceted organization that plays an important role in all elements of the community. Even with the Savannah Area Chamber’s well-recognized and respected role in the region, it is well understood by the current Board and staff that the Chamber cannot become complacent.

The new CEO must set a pace and create a vision to tackle new challenges created by future regional growth and the dynamism of the Savannah region. In addition, the Chamber continues to be challenged in growing membership along with engaging younger business owners and minority business owners in the community. The Chamber will be expected to work harder, faster, and smarter than ever if it is to continue to be viewed as “the” collaborative organization in the region.

The CEO will have the benefit of working with a highly committed and influential Board of Directors. The level of collaboration between the private sector and public sector is exceptionally strong. Widely recognized as the “go-to” business organization in the region, the Chamber is highly regarded and, as such, the new CEO will have tremendous influence within the regional community. While Savannah benefits from a strong business environment and excellent quality of life, the Chamber’s volunteer and staff leaders are not content with status quo and have high expectations for the Chamber’s new leader to lead them into “the next chapter” for the Chamber and the Savannah regional community.

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Send Resumes To:

If you are aware of an outstanding executive who meets these requirements and would be interested in evaluating this dynamic opportunity, please email Savannah@Waverly-Partners.com or contact either consultant at WAVERLY PARTNERS, the executive search firm retained by the Chamber Board on this search and the “preferred provider” of executive search services of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Eric N. Peterson, Managing Director & Principal
WAVERLY PARTNERS, Cleveland, Ohio
O: 440.892.5961; EPeterson@Waverly-Partners.com

-AND-

Deborah M. Galbraith, Managing Director & Principal
WAVERLY PARTNERS, Kansas City, Kansas
O: 785.856.9273; DGalbraith@Waverly-Partners.com

The Savannah Area Chamber is an EEO/ADA Employer that values workforce diversity, inclusion, and equity. The Chamber complies with all Federal, State, and local laws mandating Equal Employment Opportunities. All qualified applicants will be considered in accordance with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, age, veteran status, disability, marital status, hair style and hair texture, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

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