Fayetteville Chamber Has A New Leader

By Bill Kirby Jr.

            The Greater Fayetteville Chamber has been a part of this community for 122 years,  and Brian Pearce says never has there been a more important time in the life of the organization.

         “Since 1899, we’ve been advocating for our local businesses,” Pearce, 46, said Monday at the AEVEX Veterans Club of Segra Stadium, where Sharon L. Fiveash was introduced as the new president and chief executive officer for the chamber. “And our business leadership has never been more important.”

            With the COVID-19 health crisis that shuttered community businesses nationwide and many in this city and county, Pearce, the chamber board president, joined with Tammy Thurman, the board vice president, in introducing Fiveash to lead the chamber toward a bright future.

            “We’re about to make history,” Thurman told the audience that included Mayor Mitch Colvin, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen, City Councilman Johnny Dawkins, County Commissioner Glenn Adams, N.C. Sen. Kirk deViere and a Who’s Who of other city and county leaders. “I am beyond excited about our new president. Our committee put in 500 volunteer hours, and we have the absolute best perfect person to lead our chamber.”

            Monday was Fiveash’s first day on the job, and she wasted no time in revealing her agenda.

‘Lemonade Out of Lemons’

            “We’re going to make some lemonade out of the lemons of the last year,” Fiveash said.

            She said 2020 was a tough year for our business community.

            But this is a new year, with work to be done.

            “It’s all of us together,” Fiveash said. “Working together as a team.”

            Fiveash succeeds Christine Michaels, who resigned after three years on Oct. 16, 2020, to accept a position as president and chief executive officer of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee. Taneshia Kerr, the chamber’s membership director, has served as interim president and CEO.

            Fiveash brings a resume with a wealth of experience, including stints with numerous chambers across the country including Lexington, Kentucky; Branson, Missouri; Chillicothe, Missouri; and South Windsor, Connecticut, where she also served as the economic developer for the Town of South Windsor. Fiveash comes to Fayetteville from the Connecticut River Valley Chamber, where she was working on COVID-19 recovery and non-dues revenue resources.

            “I do have experience,” Fiveash said.

            Fiveash said she will be reaching out to this community and hoping to develop partnerships with the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corp. and theFayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

            “I am not in a silo,” she said. “I’m into working with everybody.”

            The chamber also has adopted a new branding name in “Can Do Carolina,” aimed at finding a way, caring for one another, protecting the world and to always go further.

            “ ‘Can Do Carolina’ ” is a central branding that many of the government, councils, created last year to have a central brand for our community,” Pearce said. “Our community as a whole embraced the brand of ‘Can Do Carolina,’ and the four pillars, because we felt it represented who we are. It is not just for the chamber, but Fayetteville, Cumberland County and several of the community groups like us.”

Epilogue

            The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce has played a vital role in this community, from leading the way for the Cape Fear Valley Hospital in the early 1950s to enjoying some of its finer years in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s under the late president and CEO John Swope, and in the 1990s under David Jameson.

            There was a period when the chamber lost some of its luster.

            Brian Pearce looks to Sharon Fiveash for the best of days and years to come.

            “Really, from the board perspective, we want Shari to use her experience and expertise to give us ideas on how we can advocate, promote and better support the businesses in our community,” Pearce said.  “The Greater Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce has been doing this for over 120 years, but with Shari, we really feel we can take our support for local businesses to another level, where businesses really know and feel how our chamber helps supports them.”

            George Breece is director emeritus for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.

            “We’re about building this community,” Breece told the audience. “I’ve been a member of the chamber for 46 years. Let’s all pull together, work hard and make this the best chamber in America.”

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached a tbkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961