In a recent South Georgia Insider Podcast, Christie Moore, CEO and president of the Valdosta Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce shares her newcomer’s view of Valdosta and Lowndes County, how the chamber is helping businesses post-pandemic, and the importance of the Chamber’s mission to advocate, build, and connect.
While no stranger to Southwest Georgia, Moore started her professional career with the Blakely-Early County Chamber before serving as president and CEO of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce in Dawsonville, Georgia, a position she held for eight years.
Less than six months on the job, Moore is still learning about the Valdosta and Lowndes County community. “Valdosta is a big, small town and everyone knows each other, which attracted us here,” says Moore, who moved to Lowndes County with her husband, Michael Moore.
“I have witnessed many ways the city and county have worked together and also business leaders are all in,” she says. “I appreciate the whole county, I don’t want to leave out Hahira, Lake Park, or Dasher, all of our groups have a lot going on and I think as a strength, I see us as a creative community.”
As the community begins to emerge from the pandemic’s disruptions, she says the Chamber is committed to helping businesses re-think their operating models. “I don’t think there is a business in Valdosta or Lowndes who will tell you they are doing things exactly the same before the pandemic. I honestly don’t think any of us will go back [to normal]. As terrible as COVID was, we can take lessons from it.”
In a community known for its entrepreneurial spirit, Moore says the number of multi-generational businesses speaks highly of the small business culture.
“Statistics show that once you get to third and fourth generation [ownership], businesses tend to burn out,” she says. “I really don’t see that here, that says a lot about this community, who we are and who want to support.”
As the community begins to emerge from pandemic disruptions, Moore says the Chamber is committed to helping businesses re-think their operation models. “I don’t think there is a business in Valdosta or Lowndes who will tell you they are doing things exactly the same before the pandemic. I honestly don’t think any of us will go back [to normal]. As terrible as COVID was, we can take lessons from it.”
Realizing that not all members fit in the “same box,” Moore says the Chamber has to implement programs that meet members where they are and fit their current business needs.
“As we move forward we have to think about how to engage all the different sectors,” she says. “In Valdosta and Lowndes County we have a huge variety and diversity of our economy…not just retail and manufacturing,”
A major shift across all businesses is employment. “One thing we have learned is ‘work’ looked different during the pandemic.”
Either working from home or being an “essential worker” the Chamber is working with the business community to meet the different needs.
“We hear our businesses loud and clear that the biggest issue is having the workers to fulfill their needs,” she says. “The Chamber can encourage and support businesses and be the leader for helping institute best practices. We can be that research partner, information partner. I find that businesses know their industry really, really well, sometimes they need that extra help to know how to pivot and change.”
As part of its workforce mission, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber is partnering with the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority, Wiregrass Technical College, and Georgia Power to host a Workforce Solutions Summit from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Wednesday, June 9, at the at Rainwater Conference Center.
According to Moore, the summit provides an opportunity to gain feedback from business leaders and provide information about existing programs and options that all businesses can utilize to foster their workforce pipeline.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s mission is focused on advocating, building, and connecting. The ABC approach allows the Chamber to meet the individual needs of each member.
“Advocacy is a huge part of who we are at the Chamber,” says Moore. “That can be advocating at the local level at a city council meeting or at the state and federal levels.”
Serving as a united voice for businesses, Moore says, “I have found over the years that many business leaders are little intimidated by the political world because it’s not what they do on a daily basis. That’s what we can do on their behalf.”
Through “building” a stronger business community, the Chamber’s SEEDS Business Resource Center (Sowing Entrepreneur and Economic Development Success) provides free assistance to startup and existing companies throughout the region. Each year, the SEEDS Center works with approximately 500 clients, offering various services and resources—all at no charge—that include market research analysis, business plan development, website creation, marketing, and branding.
Still learning about the community, Moore says, “It’s like I am drinking out of a firehose. What I love about the Chamber world is I’ve never had two days just alike.”
To hear the complete discussion with Moore, check out the full episode of South Georgia Insider Podcast available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and iHeart Podcast. https://southgeorgiainsider.buzzsprout.com/