The Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce has a new president in Laurie Clifton, who began in the role on Feb. 1.

In a nutshell

The GMPCC began looking for a new president in late December after the board wanted a change in leadership, letting previous President Sandy Barton go in December. Barton first joined the GMPCC in 2017 after the two former chambers in Magnolia—the Greater Magnolia and Magnolia Parkway chambers—merged in January 2017.

As previously reported by Community Impact, Clifton was one of over 20 candidates interviewed for the position. She has corporate business experience and volunteer experience with several Montgomery County organizations, such as the Magnolia Education Foundation and the Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Are you a Montgomery County resident?

I am. I’ve been in Montgomery County—we bought our land in ’99, and I think we finished building in 2003.

What was your last position before being named president?

I’ve reinvented myself a few times, but my last position I owned a marketing company, so strategic marketing, digital marketing and grassroots marketing.

Can you speak to some of your experience that will help you in this role?

When we came here, [our] boys were little. I joined the PTO. ... That led me into the Magnolia Education Foundation where I started doing account development, reaching out to corporate and so forth. I helped with one of the first denim and diamonds [events], and what we did was denim and diamonds New Year’s Eve event, and it was at the Marriott. We did that three years in a row and it was successful. And as far as the ESD, I was appointed last May to the ESD.

What other experiences do you have that you think will help you as you serve as the chamber’s new president?

I was in corporate America for—well, I retired from corporate America before we came to Montgomery County, and like I said, I’ve reinvented myself a couple times. I had a design company, originally went to school for architecture and design. ... So corporate America and then small-business [experience]. I’ve had several small businesses. ... I had a marketing company, which was the last one, and prior to that one, while the kids were in junior high, I was doing architecture and design.

What are your priorities as president?

We’re growing, so [I want] to keep up with the growth at a faster pace than actually we’re trying to grow so that we can keep market share. Membership, networking and supporting our members [are also priorities]. And then [another priority is] reaching out to the bigger box stores but still keeping Magnolia with that small hometown feel.

What do you think are the biggest issues local businesses are facing?

Mobility. We’re growing so fast that the mobility and the traffic is becoming a problem.

In your view, how can the chamber help businesses as they deal with issues related to mobility, construction and things like that?

I think that we need to look at [our] government affairs committee and reaching out to the commissioners and understanding what’s going on and when things are happening. I think we need to be part of the city—and when I say that, with economic growth and so forth—we need to be reaching across the aisle to the city itself and building that relationship with their economic growth department and so forth so we can keep our members up to date on what’s going on and working together with them.

What do you see happening in 2024 for the chamber? What do you want to accomplish this year as president?

We have a new event happening, so it’s Taste This, Try That. ... I think that’s the newest thing that’s happening. But beyond that, my focus is going to be working off [our] strategic plan, and since that plan—we’re a couple years in it—I want to re-evaluate that plan and see what we need to do to grow.

What do you want local businesses to know about you or know about the chamber?

I think the fact that we’re growing so fast. We really need to continue, and I think we can still give that hometown feeling to our members and to our community. ... I just want us to still be Magnolia and [have] our hometown feel. That’s what most of us came here for. We moved to the country to live in the country and not be part of the hustle and bustle. But we are truly growing now, and we need to put a balance to that—to the growth compared to the feeling of still being a small town.