“Regardless of what you put into the Chamber of Commerce, you’re going to get something out of it,” affirms the newest president and CEO of Clayton Chamber of Commerce, Valencia Williamson. “Being a part of a large voice of individuals or business professionals is very beneficial for the validity of your business, … It’s nice to say that you’ve got someone or a business organization in your corner that you belong to.”
In Jonesboro, Georgia, President Williamson administers all components of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce as she serves in her admirable position. Before she accepted the role, Williamson earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in 2001, as well as a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2019.
In addition to her studies, Williamson has earned a considerable amount of experience in various areas within the industry, including organizational management and program implementation. Between 2008 and 2010, Williamson served as vice president in the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Following her duties in Florida, she took on the responsibilities of Executive Vice President for the Area Development Partnership, where she served three counties that encompassed over 150,000 citizens in South Mississippi.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed several critical issues for businesses throughout the country, Williamson has clarified the role of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, allowing her community of business owners to adequately understand what the organization can do to help.
In an interview with Gerrian Hawes, President Williamson opens up about the Chamber and its responsibilities concerning providing resources for businesses of all sizes. She describes that the Chamber is a fundamental aid for businesses, regardless of the challenge. Williamson explains that all operations are different from others giving each one different needs than their fellow businesses. The Chamber of Commerce maintains a large hand in assisting; Williamson states that their responsibility is “to connect them [businesses] with the resources that they need in order to do business well, or better.”
She moves on to explain that, although the Chamber has many helpful hands within itself, the membership is equally as useful to the community. Williamson says, “As a chamber, we need to be nimble enough to determine if we, ourselves, can provide those resources, or whether we need to outsource and look to our membership. … We bring people together so that we can help them build connections and relationships accordingly that will then help them in their business.”
As the newest president of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, Williamson has also provided valuable information on what she hopes to do to help move the community forward while serving in her essential position. She claims that her most prized characteristic of the Chamber is its integral collaboration methods. Williamson appreciates the effort of various chambers pooling resources together and working in unison to enhance the quality of life within communities. She explains that collaboration between similar divisions is a crucial aspect for avoiding the minimization of resources. That said, Williamson’s primary goal as CEO of Clayton County Chamber includes building “partnerships and collaborative efforts amongst many of the entities that are already existing,” so “when we [Clayton] market our community, … we are all in sync and aligned in our messaging.”
While many collaborations in the upcoming year of 2021 are confidential, President Williamson describes that there intends to be additional attention on the Small Business Development Center at Clayton State University in the Chamber’s near future. She hopes to pursue a refreshing approach on how to help small businesses in terms of ways that owners can conduct business more effectively. This back-to-basics plan will hopefully empower small business owners to ensure that they do not need to remain in “survival mode” regularly. But instead, institutions can learn how to better utilize their resources and sufficiently sustain their businesses.
“The Chamber is the bridge between the community development piece and the economic development piece,” Williamson claims, and community economics begins with small businesses. An essential step that she is hoping to take is that of assisting operations in becoming “pandemic proof,”; ensuring that the next time a national problem comes along—much like what 2020 has brought forward—many more businesses will be able to withstand the inevitable economic distress.
Williamson not only embarks on the path of her newest position for the sake of her personal achievements, but she has also claimed the title to employ her most enjoyable part of life and her true calling: service. Throughout her fifteen years of acknowledging and troubleshooting the abilities of the Chamber of Commerce, Williamson has developed a myriad of essential business skills, including economic development, which is critical in her success as the president and CEO. President Williamson will undoubtedly prove her diligent service while she continues on the journey of community enhancement for Clayton County.