New chamber CEO Crystal Brown says workforce development a priority

·3 min read

Jun. 11—Crystal Brown, who takes over as the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce's president and chief executive officer July 1, said developing the local workforce will continue to be a focus for the organization.

Brown, currently the vice president of development, was selected as the fourth person and first woman to lead the organization by the chamber's board of directors, who announced her promotion Thursday. John Seymour, the current president and CEO, announced his retirement in May after more than 30 years in that job.

"We've got to continue to find ways to recruit people to the area, alongside our partners," to satisfy workforce needs, she said. "We've got to be very intentional about the way we go about doing that. We're going to have to go outside of Decatur-Morgan County obviously and the region and continue to recruit people."

Brown said it helps that "we have a great quality of life here and (community leaders) have done such a wonderful job and paid close attention to building (amenities) like our downtown."

Brown, 57, joined the chamber staff in 2012 and, as vice president, she has directed a wide range of chamber activities and worked with partners and community leaders on retaining and expanding existing businesses and recruiting new businesses and commercial investments.

"We have a huge opportunity out on (Alabama) 20" with the construction of an overpass there underway, Brown said. "That's pretty much a blank canvas out there right now. We believe in planned growth and development as opposed to growth and development happening by osmosis."

Consultant Clarion Associates is leading a rewrite of the city's zoning and land-use codes that "will help us determine how we need to go about recruiting businesses and what needs to be out there," she said of the largely undeveloped land along the Alabama 20 corridor. "We're excited about that opportunity" in the area that she described as "a gateway into the city."

Brown's involvement with the chamber started as a board member in 1999 and she served as the board's vice chair and chair. But before that, while she was still a student at the University of Alabama, she would join her father at the organization's breakfast meetings during the summer.

"He thought networking, learning about the business community was important," she said. "It's truly come full circle."

Jeff Brown, chair of the chamber board who led the search process and not a relation, said Crystal Brown brings "a wealth of experience working for the chamber and with various business and civic leaders and organizations in our community for many years."

Crystal Brown's experiences make her "ideally suited to lead the chamber forward and to continue its work and mission," Jeff Brown said. "The relationships Crystal has developed, her sterling reputation and her experiences in these various roles are what make her stand out as the best candidate to serve as the chamber's next president."

Crystal Brown said it's an honor that the board has entrusted her to lead the chamber and build on the "incredible legacy" of Seymour, who she called a mentor and friend.

"I'm very fortunate to have been able to learn from him," Brown said. "I'm excited about this next chapter for me at the chamber. We have amazing opportunities in this city and county. We have so much economic growth and opportunity."

Brown has served on the One Decatur comprehensive city plan steering committee, the Decatur Morgan CEO program and the Athens State University and Alabama Community College System boards of trustees. She will be board chair of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama next year. She is a 2016 graduate of the statewide leadership program Leadership Alabama and is the Decatur Regional Council chair of that organization.

marian.accardi@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.