By Andrea Hutchins
As of Nov. 3, I have been in my role at the El Paso Chamber for 90 days. It has been a whirlwind of experiences and encounters, and I have learned a great deal in a short period of time.
Our operations tempo has never been faster, and judging by the number of people I have met and meetings I have attended, my step count is also up! I have been lucky to be a part of putting on several significant “State of” events and our Women in Business Conference — 10 events in total.
Internally we have been through a restructuring and hiring wave. I thought it would be interesting to share with you all some of what I have learned, and where I hope to go in the next 90 days and beyond.
The Chamber is lucky to have partners in government and education. Our events with Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, and Superintendents Carman, De La Torre, and Sayavedra emphasized the great work they are doing for El Paso. These relationships are vital to the Chamber’s role in setting the conditions for economic prosperity here in El Paso.
So, where do we go from here? I have learned a great deal, but I also
recognize that there is much more to learn. I am spending time with our members, particularly with small and medium enterprises, to learn about their needs and especially how they can benefit from new economic opportunities.
I have long believed that small and medium businesses can be crucial to larger efforts and need only be provided connections and networks to realize that potential.
Our educational partners have reminded me that the entire educational structure from K-12 has an impact on economic development, innovation, and educational trajectories through community college to the four-year university. My efforts in this first year are going to continue to look for collaborative projects that help build networks between our members, schools, and partners such as El Paso Community College and the University of Texas at El Paso.
I also recognize that women in this community need more opportunities for economic success in the business realm. I believe that our efforts with the Women in Business Conference are the tip of the spear in terms of how we can build strengths in the business community and engage women entrepreneurs and business leaders, not just to foster success but to generate and grow new women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
I am especially pleased by how my staff has come together — now a largely female team, with tenure ranging from 17 years to 2 weeks, we are becoming a well-oiled machine.
I am committed to expanding the reach of the Chamber with more members and targeted member services. We are in the process of redesigning our membership structure so that the benefits of membership are quite evident and appealing to continuing and new members. I want to be a model Chamber for others trying to read the economic and social trends emerging this next year.
My goal in the next year is to never have someone ask me, “What does the Chamber do for me?” If we haven’t answered that question in the next 12 months, I haven’t been doing my job.
I love being back in El Paso! I very much love and appreciate the efforts of my team, and I have been overwhelmed by the community’s support of our new initiatives.
And I know that we have lots of work to do to maintain our community’s trajectory, but I love the challenge and appreciate the opportunity. If we have not had a chance to chat, let’s do that, and together, let’s continue El Paso’s impressive strides forward.
Andrea Hutchins is president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber.