Wednesday, October 1, 2014

As Chamber looks to the future, new CEO mirrors its goals


Matt Yancey has been hired as the Davis Chamber of Commerce's new chief executive officer. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | August 10, 2014 |

It goes without saying, but then sometimes it needs to be said: Businesses are run by people. And people like to be listened to.

Matt Yancey, Davis Chamber of Commerce’s CEO in waiting, knows this small-town touch from his experience with the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s efforts to recruit, retain and expand businesses of all sizes throughout the valley region.

“I never cease to be amazed at the reactions we get when we walk into companies, particularly microenterprises and small businesses, and we ask ‘How’s business?’ ” Yancey said earlier this week in an interview at the Chamber. “The reaction that you get in that situation is so incredibly rewarding because you’re walking in and saying you’re part of our community, we value that and we care that you are part of our community. ‘How are things going?’ That’s the foundation of it all.”

It’s also part of the foundation of a new, six-year strategy by the Chamber of Commerce to follow a handful of objectives that jointly seek to strengthen and cultivate more economic vitality — grow a more diverse and bustling local economy — through communicating effectively with its members, partnering with local educational institutions, advocating for businesses and, through it all, showing its members and those sitting on the fence that the Davis Chamber is more than worth the money to be a member.

The 2020 Prosperity Plan, as it’s called, is a year in the making and comes at a nexus point for the city and Chamber. Incoming proposals for new innovation parks around the city’s periphery and the work feeling out the potential for a joint partnership for developing the Nishi Property, in conjunction with neighboring UC Davis, city of Davis and property owners, are potentially positioning the city for economic growth in ways that haven’t been seen.

In a prepared statement, Yancey said the Davis community was the most engaging he’d encountered in his career, stretching from the nonprofit Center For Economic Development in Chico — which focused on economic development for the northern part of the state — to being a project manager at consulting firm Applied Development Economics, to his current job as Director of Business and Economic Development for the Metro Chamber.

As part of his post, Yancey gets around.

A July 1 article in the Elk Grove Citizen focused on Yancey’s organized effort — along with 40 volunteers — walk around and interview Elk Grove businesses around the city. The task updated two previous “business walks,” a key outreach service by the Metro Chamber.

“It’s vitally important, as business conditions change year in and year out,” Yancey was quoted in the Citizen. “The more frequently you could get in touch with the same businesses, that’s part of building that relationship.”

Yancey sees strengthening personal relationships with business decision-makers as being central to how the Chamber of Commerce will continue to serve its members and community.

“Connecting as much as possible with the businesses that make up the business community, demonstrating that you, as an economic developer, a Chamber leader, a city leader, that you value their contribution to the community, that they are in your mind an important part of the community, that you have a vested interest in helping them achieve their goals,” he said in an interview. “… It’s the fundamental thing you need to do.”

Yancey’s first day with the Chamber of Commerce is Aug. 26. Until then, CEO Kemble Pope is executing the ideas of the Chamber’s 15-member board of directors. Pope often has been a fixture at City Hall, making sure the business community is represented when issues arise that could affect it.

In a June message from the Chamber, its leadership said Pope, in his three years as CEO, had strengthened the financials of the Chamber, further partnered with local and regional organizations, launched initiatives to improve the local economy and become an active voice in local and regional public policy. All this in what Chamber leaders called in a Saturday statement a “crucial transition.”

Pope wrote that he plans to stay in Davis and looks forward “to many years of community involvement.”

“With Matt’s broad experience, commitment to collaboration and existing professional relationships in Davis, I am confident that, in passing the baton, our continued momentum and quest for excellence will be maintained,” Pope wrote in the statement released Saturday.

Rose Cholewinski, who served on the Chamber selection committee that chose Yancey and is a 2012 past Chamber president, said in an email that Yancey will keep the Chamber’s “momentum going as Kemble steps away from the position.”

“As the Director of Business and Economic Development for the Metro Chamber, I believe he brings enthusiasm, knowledge of our area and will provide forward thinking to our business community in his new position,” Cholewinski also wrote.

Whatever the case, Yancey will have to hit the ground running. His first public appearance as CEO will take place at a Sept. 2 Chamber luncheon that will have the influential UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi as keynote speaker.

But as Yancey says, collaboration with the university is part of collaborating with the community as a whole.

“In Davis the goal is about a prosperous and thriving and vibrant community,” he said. “There may be some disagreements along the way in terms of how we get to that goal, but we get to that goal by working together and building consensus for a plan forward.”

— Reach Dave Ryan at or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at





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