Mon, May 20, 2024

Changing of the Chamber of Commerce Guard

Publisher’s Note: In Aiken, they don’t pass the gavel when one President leaves the Chamber of Commerce. They pass the scissors for future ribbon cuts! Longtime President, David Jameson handpicked Jim Tunison to be his membership sales leader five years ago and helped develop Jim into the chamber professional he is today. At age 72, Jameson was ready for a much-deserved retirement. At age 29, Tunison is eager to take the reins. Here is a lightly edited excerpt from our recent conversation.

ABD: How was David’s retirement party on February 29?

Jim Tunison: It was really nice. There were a lot of people who I hadn’t seen in five years, and then it was just a nice reception for David. We had a lot of special people here, our elected officials and our state representatives came. And it was just a special moment. So, I was just happy to be there.

ABD: So, even though the event was for him. Did you kind of feel a bit special yourself?

Jim Tunison: Yeah. Especially when June Murff came. And so, all the three recent chamber presidents took a picture together. I was like, wow, it was pretty cool. So, that very next day on Friday, we had our first Friday needs business. Technically, that was the first official day. So, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You know, starting with that event, right at 7:30 in the morning.

ABD: What have you most learned from David?

Jim Tunison: One of the biggest things is, he’s always positive, no matter what happens, especially during COVID. He was always encouraging, you know, we’re gonna get through this. And even in the obstacles, there’s an opportunity for the chamber to shine and for the Chamber President to step up and be a leader in the community. And, you know, I think even especially during those challenging times always asking, what else can we do to help our members grow and thrive? You know, he’s consistently asking basically, how do we get better as individuals and as a chamber and as a community? And I think those are two of the biggest things.

ABD: What have you learned being in charge of the membership that you think you will take into being in charge of the entire chamber?

Jim Tunison: I think that’ll make the learning curve a little bit shorter for this position. I do have a good grasp on the entire membership. And it’s a different level of conversation now. In my previous role, it was what our members needed now, how can I help that now? And although I still keep one foot in that camp, the conversation switches to how can we set up our community for success 5, 10, and 15 years down the road.

ABD: The fact that you’re younger and we live now in a digital world, are there more things in that space you might turn to, now that you are in the Big Chair?

Jim Tunison: I feel like I bring a different perspective, I’m just in a different season of life. One of the big things I talked to our Board of Directors about is that childcare is a huge issue because of a lack of options. I have a one-year-old son, and before he was even born, I had to go and register him to make sure he had a spot in daycare. So, it’s things like that I am hoping to address in the future for working parents.

I think we can certainly always improve on things from a digital marketing side.

I think that was one thing that I’ve helped increase as I’ve got here, it’s just the use of our digital assets, you know, social media and we now have a very large email database that we didn’t have before. We acquired that through the red ticket campaign and now we have over 6,000 community emails that we can help broadcast and showcase our members in what they’re doing throughout the years.

Can we create a podcast studio here or like a creator studio or that type of hub to provide value for our members? I think there are different things like that, that can be pretty exciting that we could definitely launch here in the next couple of years.

ABD: Are there any initiatives you wanted to share for the first year?

Jim Tunison: I really feel like maybe we are at a tipping point right now, there’s so much happening. There are projects that David has been a part of that are finally in the works, like the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, supporting the Savannah River National Laboratory who wants to put 100 full-time workers downtown here in a mixed-use building.

There’s investment going on in the farmer’s market with the streetscape there, there’s a lot of positive things happening.

I guess my goal this year and what I’d like to accomplish with our board is to create that next-generation strategic plan that really reflects the changing business community with the growth that we’re experiencing. So, hopefully, we’ll be able to tackle that, and they’ll have a board retreat later this spring to nail down some of those different initiatives.

That’ll be a good focus group for us and ultimately, be that driving force on what we want to focus on the next couple of years.

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