She spoke with Community Impact about her goals as the chamber turns the corner on this milestone and navigates the city’s rapid residential and commercial growth. The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about your background and how you got involved with Chambers of Commerce.
Mays: I’ve been in this area for about 18 years now. I have spent a little over two decades in leadership roles in Pflugerville, Round Rock, Lufkin/Angelina County chambers, and then also I’ve worked in development roles here with Seton Williamson Foundation and March of Dimes Central Texas. Prior to that, I did have a career in journalism, where I worked at radio stations and was a news anchor in East Texas.
The chamber role came about when I had the anchor job in East Texas at Tyler, and I got to know the CEO at a local chamber who just asked if I would ever be interested in working at a chamber. I didn’t know much about chambers, but I went and met with him, and it was just the right fit at the right time. I fell in love with it. There was no looking back once I started.
What is the role of a chamber of commerce? As president and CEO, what role do you play in the chamber’s broader mission?
Mays: A chamber of commerce is an association of business people designed to promote and protect the interests of its members and supporting local. It’s really about connecting local businesses with the resources they need and helping build those relationships within the community that help our economy thrive and grow.
As the CEO, it’s really my role to oversee the organization as a whole, evaluate our programs and make sure we are able to give what our businesses need to succeed.
What opportunities and challenges do Georgetown’s growth present the chamber?
Mays: I think it’s safe to say the theme of our era right now is growth, and the chamber needs to be strategic in managing that growth and maintaining the highest level of service offered to our membership. The Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown [metropolitan statistical area] is the fastest-growing metro area in the state. Growth of that magnitude has to be effectively managed to ensure that the chamber is growing with our businesses and not behind them.
I think the discussion with our businesses as they grow becomes, “How are their needs changing?” It’s important on our end to continually be evaluating the resources we’re offering, the educational opportunities we’re giving them because as they grow those change. Growth for the sake of just growing can result in low-quality programs.
Does a chamber play a role in helping the city or developers attract businesses to the community?
Mays: One of the things I like to say in regards to what is the city’s role, what is the chambers role is the easiest way I’ve found to explain that is it’s the city’s role to recruit businesses here; it’s the chamber’s role to keep them here. It really is about how people want to be able to work in a place that they love living, and that’s where the chamber comes in. We’re going to create a thriving, growing business community, and community is the key word.
What do you hope to accomplish in your first full year in Georgetown?
Mays: Overall, we need to stay focused on the goals of the chamber—engaging our businesses and truly understanding how we can promote growth and serve them to the best of our ability.
So, my short-term goals will really be about evaluating all of the programs that we have to ensure that we are meeting the expectations of our members and that we’re engaging them throughout their entire business life cycle. We really want our members to grow with us.
What are your other short-term goals?
Mays: We also want to look at refreshing our brand because we just finished our 75th year, and it’s time to look at what that brand looks like in the future.
We want to make our communications a little more streamlined and update our website to be more user friendly because the biggest goal we have moving into the future is how can we make it as simple as we can for our members to get information. Our small businesses, especially now after the pandemic, don’t have the workforce that they need, and it’s hard for them to stay on top of things, so we want to be that hub for them.
Another short-term goal—we are a four-star accredited chamber through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the highest you can get is five stars—so that is also a short-term goal.
The Ambassador Program through the Georgetown Chamber is a volunteer group that welcomes new businesses to the community. They:
- Recruit new businesses to the chamber
- Help the chamber reach out to new members
- Partner with businesses to invite them to events
- Connect them to other businesses
Mays said membership to the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce has grown every year for the past four years and continues to add new businesses to its ranks. As of February 2023, the chamber had 1,028 members. This is up from 898 members in 2020, according to data provided by the organization.
Among the events the Chamber holds are its Quarterly Cornerstone Luncheons. Mays said these luncheons feature a speaker who can talk about one of four cornerstones, or pillars to building a successful community.
- Health care
- Public safety
- Economic development