After nearly seven years with the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, Matthew Ferrarro became the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce CEO in April. The organization had been leaderless for about a year, and the board of directors oversaw the chamber through what Ferraro calls a transition year.

Within his first six months as CEO of the chamber, Ferraro has helped the chamber develop new programs, increase membership, and redesign its website and logo. He also has plans to continue developing the chamber, improve its services and help local businesses grow.

How have your first few months been at the chamber?
Fantastic and very, very busy with revolving door meetings and a lot of community building. Everybody’s been so welcoming with open doors. It’s just been fantastic. I have yet to go into a situation where I felt overwhelmed or intimidated, and that speaks to the community.

Last year was not the easiest for the chamber. How was it able to recover?
It was a unique year for the chamber. From talking with our board and some of our community leaders, it was a transition year. The executive team really put in a lot of work to right the ship and get us in the right direction. And fortunately, they gave me the opportunity to come on board.

The board built a solid foundation financially. We’re the strongest we’ve been in a while, and that’s just a testament to what they’ve done. When I got here, I saw how organized internally they were: the staff that was in place kept things very, very organized. The board put things together, and they built a solid foundation. Now, I have the opportunity to build upon that foundation.

What is the role of the chamber in the community?
We need to be the voice for businesses. They should share their concerns with us, and we’ll take them to where they need to be resolved. More connectors—that’s what chambers are: connectors of community.

There’s a lot of similar programs, but we’re the Katy Area Chamber located in Waller County, Harris County, Fort Bend County, and the heartbeat is the city of Katy. That’s unique. I don’t know if there’s any other chamber that resides within three counties. We’re at the forefront of something that could be unprecedented. We’ve got so much opportunity to just expand and grow, and grow our community as time goes on.

How is membership?
Membership is over 500 now. We’re growing every day. But it’s not necessarily selling anymore—for me at least. To grow membership, you want to share what the chamber does and share the benefits and why it’s important to be part of the chamber and part of the community. Chambers don’t really have anything tangible to give. It’s not like a product and service, it’s more of an intangible project that brings more value down the line.

What are your plans for the chamber in the next year?
Right now, we’ve got three touch points a month: a breakfast, lunch and an after-hours event. That will slightly change starting January 2020. I feel that our members deserve more touch points throughout the month.

We’re starting to develop a small-business program to help a lot of our small businesses, and in August 2020 we’re starting our 10-month leadership program. Another thing is that I want people to feel like they have access to me. I’ve got an open-door policy. Our new members will have a chance to do coffee with the CEO and learn how to use the chamber’s tools.

2019 for me was getting established, building the relationships and meeting a lot of people and putting some programs in place. And 2020, I’m hoping to fine tune that and push it forward.