Building for the Future
photograph by Larry Kuzniewski
The Germantown Area Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization serving about 600 members across the Mid-South. It sees to the needs of its constituency — its business members, the city government, and city residents — and makes sure each is working with the others as smoothly as possible. The chamber is a front door to the community, a smiling face for visitors and residents, and a partner for businesses in their endeavor to be prosperous.
The 2013 chairman of the chamber is Bill Lansden. Born and raised in Memphis, Lansden has lived in Germantown since 2004 with his wife, Blair, the head basketball coach at Hutchison School, and their twin girls.
Lansden attended MUS, Rhodes College, and wound up with a master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State. He has put that to use working for the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament and today is Associate Athletic Director for Development at the University of Memphis.
Lansden has been involved with the Germantown Area Chamber for more than 15 years, including serving as chairman once before, in 2001. “Bill is respected, and he has built great relationships and has a passion for the Chamber and the businesses,” says Pat Scroggs, recently retired president and CEO of the chamber. “He’s the next generation of leadership in the community.”
Scroggs has led the chamber since August 2002 and has lived in the city since 1978. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Scroggs had dealings with the chamber while serving as the regional representative of Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist and as a graduate of Leadership Germantown.
When the job opened up at the chamber, she jumped at the chance. “It was a natural fit,” Scroggs says. “It was already a solid chamber, and my predecessors and the board of directors were great when I came aboard.”
After a decade at the helm, Scroggs retired in January 2013. She will receive the Citizen of the Year award from the Germantown Lions Club in March.
“Fortunately, because of Pat’s leadership, it hasn’t been that hard for the past chairmen,” Lansden says with a smile. “Pat has done a great job, and with her retirement we have challenges in front of us. Hiring the right replacement is the top priority. And, as a board, we have to build on Pat’s accomplishments.”
MBQ sat down with Lansden and Scroggs, in advance of her retirement, to discuss the chamber and where it’s going next.
MBQ: Pat, are you going to change your phone number after you retire?
Pat Scroggs: [Laughing] “No, I’ve told everyone I’m always around. When you’ve invested so much time and energy, you want to see things flourish and improve. I want someone bright, young, and energetic who can take the chamber to the next level. Bill is the perfect person to be chairman for 2013 to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.”
Bill, why is it important for you as a University of Memphis employee to be active in the Germantown Area Chamber?
Bill Lansden: “The University of Memphis is an integral part of the community and works for its future. Our employees are encouraged to be involved in the community and spread the message that the more successful we are as a university — with enrollments, graduation rates, the business program, and the nursing school — the better off this community will be.”
How was 2012 for the chamber?
Scroggs: “We started the Young Professionals Group, and it has been a huge success. In less than a year there are already 100 members under the age of 40, and they’re all professional, intelligent, and educated people. Many of them are middle management who will one day be the top executives at their companies. We continue to attract younger professionals and new businesses.”
What is on your agenda in 2013?
Lansden: “First, we have to make the right hire for CEO. Second, we’re going to invest in the chamber’s technological capabilities. Third, the economy is turning around, and for the last four or five years, Pat has done a great job of maintaining the membership base. Now is the time to build it up.”
What is the relationship like between the chamber and the City of Germantown?
Scroggs: “We’ve always had a positive relationship. The mayor sits as an appointee on our board of directors. Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy is very engaged, contributes to our meetings, and keeps us abreast of what’s going on in the city. That’s an advantage our chamber has: Sometimes chambers and cities are in competition. But we’re all in this together. The city is in the process of hiring an economic development director, and we’ll have that person on our board as well. We have a new website, germantownedp.com, to promote economic development.”
The majority of chamber members are small businesses. What do they get out of being members?
Scroggs: “Many of our businesses have one to 10 employees. Owners and employees of a small business may not have the opportunity to meet a vast group of people at any one time. Being in the chamber allows them the opportunity to meet others. Even a multimillion-dollar company might have a small staff, and they have to be able to network.”
What do larger companies and organizations get out of being a member?
Scroggs: “You’re only a big dog so long as you’re taking care of your business. You have to seek new customers and new clients.”
Bill: “And it’s good to be involved and to give back to the community that gives to you.”