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Brian Willman sees ample opportunity in 2018 to capitalize on the Port City’s robust job growth while nurturing its ever expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem.
And as incoming chairman of the Mobile Area Chamber’s board of directors, the veteran banker says the wheel need not be reinvented to perpetuate recent successes so long as honesty, integrity and adaptability remain central to doing business.
“There are always new and innovative ways to tweak what we do, and it all boils down to enhancing the support our members receive,” said Willman, Regions’ area president for South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. “That takes continuous evaluation and a commitment to communicating better to our members how policies affect business, but I certainly don’t think things are broken by any stretch.”
In turn, incorporating best practices at every turn while continuing to encourage public-private partnerships should position the Chamber to capitalize on shrinking unemployment rates and big-ticket economic development announcements without sacrificing support for the local economy’s true backbone – small business.
“I’m excited about this (new role) because it’s very important to me that all of our members receive the appropriate level of support to sustain their growth,” he said. “There’s no question these big (economic development) announcements are invigorating – and a testament to the solid work performed day-in and day-out by the Chamber – but we can’t forget about the medium to small businesses that help our economy grow each and every day. My priority is to make certain every single member sees value in every dollar they invest with the Chamber and that we exist solely to help them grow their businesses.”
Willman also noted that while sheer job numbers associated with recent announcements – be it the already-hiring Amazon sortation center, Walmart distribution center or long-term plan to add an additional Airbus assembly line at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley – are encouraging. He takes particular pride in grassroots projects such as the Chamber’s Innovation PortAL.
“The PortAL hits all the right notes for me because it brings together so many different networks and introduces entirely new business development avenues to the area, but mainly I’m encouraged by the support system it creates for entrepreneurs,” he said of the tech-centered business incubator, which is part of a St. Louis Street revival in the heart of the city’s business district.
In a stronger economy, however, people tend to “lose sight of what’s really important,” so Willman encouraged all following the Chamber’s progress in 2018 to remain focused on the primary objective.
“As a team, we want to see engaged members who realize value in every single dollar they spend, and that means getting everyone involved – whether it’s the Chamber staff or board or me – and communicating clearly and concisely that we are happy to help them in any way we can to grow their businesses and continue to be part of the positive momentum in our area,” he said.
Click here to read The Business View – March 2018