By Skip Anderson, For the Williamson Herald
The newly unified Williamson County Chamber of Commerce announced today that Matt Largen, director of the county's Office of Economic Development, will serve as its first president and chief executive officer. Largen will take office Feb. 1, 2013, allowing county officials time to replace him as head of its OED. Until August, three distinct and separate chambers of commerce simultaneously served Williamson County: the Brentwood Cool Springs Chamber, the Cool Springs Chamber, and the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber. Largen spoke with the Williamson Herald shortly after the announcement was made.
Williamson Herald: Were you in favor of unifying the three chambers when discussions began in 2009?
Matt Largen: Absolutely. I viewed it as a necessity. If nothing else, when we are working with a company, we now have an answer for them when they ask what chamber they should join. Having this single path to engagement will allow companies large, medium, and small to be a greater part of the community.
WH: What other advantages does a unified, countywide chamber offer?
Largen: There are tremendous advantages. First, for the members, they no longer have to take time out of their schedules to go to three different events and pay three separate admission fees. Second, you can speak to a more unified voice and take positions on policies that affect companies large, medium, and small. Because of the makeup of Williamson County, you can speak with a very strong unified voice, and really hope to affect change that will impact businesses throughout the county.
WH: In the announcement of your new position, you specifically mentioned enthusiasm for collaborating with the small business community. Why is that?
Largen: Most of your current chamber members are small businesses. And it's important to understand that the money they pay and the time they take to engage with you and your programs is time that's very precious to them, and it's time and they will never get back. It's allowing these smaller businesses engage with the larger ones. To me, the Chamber of Commerce all about spontaneous capitalism. And that only happens if you put people in the same room and let them have that conversation.
WH: You described the role of the chamber as providing a highly valued path to engagement for small to large businesses in the county. What does that mean?
Largen: Companies that want to come to a place to network, they want to find a place to send their employees for professional development, and they want to come to a place to find creative avenues for financing, and the chamber becomes that one-stop shop for them. The chamber is a strong business organization that these companies realize can provide their recourses to them to help them grow their businesses no matter what stage they're at and no matter what size they are.
WH: How will your experience as director of the county's OED help you at the Chamber?
Largen: It definitely helps me because of the first-hand accounts I have been fortunate to be a part of with these companies when they were involved in their decision processes, and they talked to me about what factors are important to them within the community. They talked about education, they talked about a great quality of life, they talked about having low taxes, they talked about having a great work force and great infrastructure. Hearing those kinds of things and being involved with those companies helps me to bring that insight into the chamber's programs.
WH: What metrics will you use to determine success a year after you take office?
Largen: That's pretty simple. Do we have more members then when we started? Are more people involved and engaged in the chamber than in the moment we started work. It's important that we become that single path for engagement for companies of all sizes within the county and they can all understand the benefits of being involved in the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce.
Posted on: 11/26/2012