'An epicenter of innovation': Q&A with the Plano chamber president

Kelle Marsalis was announced as president and CEO of the Plano Chamber of Commerce Oct. 16. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kelle Marsalis was announced as president and CEO of the Plano Chamber of Commerce Oct. 16. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

Kelle Marsalis was announced as president and CEO of the Plano Chamber of Commerce Oct. 16. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Plano Chamber of Commerce announced Oct. 16 that Kelle Marsalis would serve as its new president and CEO. Marsalis, who had served in the same role in an interim capacity since July, provided written answers to a questionnaire from Community Impact Newspaper. Her comments, edited for publication style, are below.

Q: Tell us about your background, before and during your time at the chamber. How has it prepared you for your new position?

A: My earliest memory is “working” in my grandmother’s western-wear store, sitting at the register and watching her wait on customers when I was about 2 years old. At 16, I went out and got a job in the small community in which I lived, working at a hardware store. I was the first high-school girl the owner had ever hired, previously reserving that coveted part-time job for boys. I learned more working for those two small businesses than any of my time in school. And from that age forward, I never went without a job again. I joined my first chamber of commerce in 2005 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and most recently, spent the past nine years (prior to joining the Plano chamber in February) at the Dallas Regional Chamber. From my first jobs to my last, having the work ethic of a small-business owner, mixed with the experience of meeting and working with many large, corporate CEOs, has prepared me for this role. I see the dynamic relationship between businesses in the same community and how working together can help move the needle on so many important issues, especially growth.

Q: What do you see the role of the chamber being in the life of the city, and what will be your first steps toward strengthening this role?

A: The chamber is a convener. Our role is to bring the business community together to work on challenges and opportunities with one goal in mind: job growth. The first steps toward strengthening this role will be to not only build upon the great success the chamber has had in recent years, but also to identify new ways to convene the business community and inspire growth.

Q: What steps does the chamber need to take to serve a changing Plano business community, and what do you plan to do to ensure those steps are taken?

A: Plano is a modern city, and change happens more rapidly as technology and innovation grows. We are lucky to be in an epicenter of innovation and growth, but it does come with its unique challenges. Our chamber needs to continue to serve our members with tenacity but also build strong relationships with those individuals and organizations who can help us. Steps will be taken to ensure those relationships remain strong [so] we can utilize the expertise in our own backyard.

Q: Restaurant and retail business owners have reported difficulties hiring and retaining employees in Plano. Are there any steps the chamber can take to help its members address issues like this?

A: The ability to attract and retain talent is a key priority for the Plano Chamber and our members. Our Industry Connect program brings together managers and owners in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industry to best practice-share and hear from experts on issues impacting their business. Attainable housing, public transportation and other issues impacting talent retention are among those issues our public policy committee and board of directors are actively monitoring and making recommendations for future solutions.

Q: Is there anything else you would like for our Plano readers to know?

A: I am extremely lucky to have joined an all-star team at the chamber. As the entire staff knows, my kryptonite is the phrase, “Because we’ve always done it this way.” I encourage business leaders who are members and those who are not to reach out and meet with me. I want to learn more about the amazing businesses in our community and how we can work together.


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