With new leaders at the helm, the Apex Chamber of Commerce is hoping to change its reputation and its practices.
Stephen Xavier, a former business coach and consultant, was named executive director of the chamber last spring. He replaced Graham Wilson, who left abruptly after a year on the job.
Paul Levering, an entrepreneur who founded a communications company and a HVAC business, is the new chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.
At the group’s annual meeting earlier this month, Levering said he welcomes input, including criticism.
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The Apex chamber has had internal struggles in the past, and there was often a lack of trust between the staff and the board members, Levering said.
“There was a bit of a wall between the staff and the board,” he said.
Moving forward, Levering said, he wants to see some changes, including better planning and execution of the chamber’s goals.
In a recent survey completed by current and former chamber members, the lowest-scoring category was understanding members’ needs. It scored a 7.2 out of 10.
“It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease,” Levering said of his desire to meet chamber members’ needs. “We serve the members who tell us what they want.”
Levering said he joined a number of local chambers of commerce several years ago in hopes of promoting his business. But he said he has since realized the groups exist to bring business people together to aid their community, not just themselves.
He wants the Apex chamber to further embrace that philosophy.
“The chamber’s role has to change,” he said. “It’s not just about networking.”
Specifically, he called for a greater focus on supporting education and hosting community events, as well as a stronger relationship with Wake Tech Community College.
Nicole Loeffler, an attorney and the chamber board’s outgoing chairwoman, said she was proud to have begun some of those efforts and wants the chamber to continue in that direction.
Loeffler also said she was proud that in her tenure, the chamber changed directions by hiring Xavier.
“It’s very exciting that you can walk in the door and maybe have a kind of experience you didn’t have before,” Loeffler said, praising Xavier and the rest of the chamber’s all-new staff.
Now the chamber hopes to grow. The goal is to add 100 new members in the next 12 months.