Chamber of Commerce names first-ever executive director
Travis Martinson spent much of the first full work week of 2011 unpacking boxes and getting herself acquainted with her new surroundings.
She's a new face in town and the new face of the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce as its recently-hired executive director.
"It certainly feels like the right time of year to start something new," Martinson said last week as she began her first full day of work at a Chamber of Commerce that has made some big changes over the last year.
The South Dakota native who most recently worked as the programs and events manager for the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, is the first ever full-time director the Woodbury Chamber has employed in its 30-plus year history. The move was a needed step in the right direction as the organization looks to grow membership and continues to mature as an advocate for community businesses, said Mark Streed, a member of the Chamber's executive committee and incoming president for 2011.
"Woodbury is without a doubt a major league city and deserves a major league Chamber of Commerce," said Streed, who runs the Meshbesher and Spence law office in Woodbury.
Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the Woodbury Chamber has relied heavily on its member volunteers and office manager to plan events and fundraising initiatives. When the organization's leadership made it a goal in 2010 to take the next step in the Chamber's development, the need to hire a full-time director became apparent, Streed said.
"In order to get to that next level we needed somebody who could lead us and help us walk the walk," Streed said. "We're excited to bring Travis aboard to help the Chamber carry out that vision."
Martinson, who was a fulltime staff member at the Burnsville Chamber for two and a half years before being hired as the executive director for the Woodbury Chamber in December, said she has found her niche in working for the organization that advocates for community business, although she acknowledges that every Chamber of Commerce has its own history and personality.
"Right now, in these first few days, it feels like I'm just trying to keep my head above water," Martinson joked last week as she was in the middle of acquainting herself with her new working digs at the Woodbury Chamber's office at Woodlane Drive and Valley Creek Road. "There is a learning curve and a lot going on already, but fortunately I was brought up in this sort of environment the last several years from my experience with Burnsville Chamber, where we had a lot of great relationships not only with our own staff and member businesses, but with our civic leaders. So that will be the challenge here, to get in and meet those folks over the coming weeks and to hear what they have to say."
Listening will be a major component of her new position, Martinson acknowledged.
"For me this job is all about building relationships and listening to what members have to say about the issues that are most important to them," said Martinson, a mother and a resident of Burnsville.
"Many times you might think you're just one voice, but with the Chamber businesses you can be a part of a bigger collective voice in the community," she said.
Finding her niche
Martinson, who earned a college degree in elementary education, first cut her teeth in the community business advocacy industry when she became a member of the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce while working for a local catering company. She steadily increased her involvement in volunteering for different events the Chamber put on before landing a fulltime gig as its programs and event manager in 2008.
Her ability to engage volunteers and find a common goal among a diverse membership helped grow the organization's biggest fundraising event, "Bite of Burnsville," by 20 percent, said Daron Von Helden, president of the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, which has about 600 member businesses and is recognized as one of the more active chamber of commerce organizations in the Twin Cities.
"Getting volunteer members more involved is always a challenge," Von Helden said. "That's an important component to any Chamber's success and was something (Martinson) managed to do well for us."
Martinson will be tested in that capacity as she will get a chance this spring to help grow the Woodbury Chamber's "Community Expo" event, now in its second year, along with a host of other calendar events like the Country Mile and annual Chamber golf tournament. She also has an admittedly lofty goal of putting the Woodbury Chamber on the list of the largest member directories in the state. Currently the Woodbury Chamber has more than 230 members.
"Being in the top 10 is kind of what every major chamber vies for each year," Martinson said. "So my lofty goal is to get the Woodbury Chamber into the top five in the next five years."
Martinson said that along with helping the Woodbury Chamber to achieve greater tangible goals, she is excited to help the organization to continue its philosophy as a place where community business leaders can build long lasting relationships.
"I believe that at the end of the day, the real question is 'Who do you do business with?'" Martinson said. "It's with people you know. Chamber members are very loyal to each other and to their community. It's all about building relationships. That's what I have enjoyed most about working in this environment."