Maria Hall Joiner has been hired as the new president and CEO of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.
The co-founder and principal of Ignite Consultants Plus, with extensive experience in the insurance industry and five years as South Padre Island chamber president, was tapped by the Brownsville business group after a three-month, national search that attracted nearly 40 candidates.
Hall Joiner had served as interim head since July 8, after former chamber president/CEO Angela Burton left for a job as deputy director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Lower Rio Grande Valley District Office in Harlingen.
In the end, Hall Joiner was deemed the best qualified candidate by the chamber board, said Nancy Reed, chairwoman of the search committee. Also, chamber members and business and community groups already know Hall Joiner and are comfortable with her, Reed said.
She said Hall Joiner’s “leadership style and passion for the community” were the best fit for the board’s top three priorities: business advocacy, collaborative leadership and business development. Board members made the decision at their Sept. 26 regular meeting.
Hall Joiner facilitated the chamber’s Women Entrepreneurs Small Business Boot Camp for four years, moving 39 graduates through the program, and hopes to open it up to male members of the local small business community as well.
Major priorities include a complete chamber website redesign to give members a better online experience, a “total makeover” of chamber headquarters itself, and a public relations campaign to show the chamber’s appreciation of its members and to highlight the work it does on their behalf.
“The chamber has always been working very hard for the members, we just haven’t been spending a lot of time telling them about it,” Hall Joiner said.
She’s planning for a big members-appreciation push in February to coincide with the chamber’s annual banquet and Charro Days events.
“Then we have a big membership event planned in September of next year,” Hall Joiner said. “We’re looking to get in about 400 new members. I think it’s doable. We haven’t had a drive in a long time.”
Something else new: The chamber is creating a vice president’s position. Hall Joiner hopes to start advertising for candidates in the next two weeks.
“It won’t be soon enough, but I also want to hire the right person,” she said.
The chamber won’t be holding its annual Business Expo and Botana next year, but will roll out a reformatted version the following year, Hall Joiner said.
Also, the chamber’s monthly “coffee talks” are history. She said she’s exploring ways to make the monthly get-togethers more of an orientation for new members, though they may still take place in the morning.
Hall Joiner said she wants to continue building relationships with the city, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Brownsville Economic Development Council, United Brownsville, et cetera, to push Brownsville forward.
“I really enjoy the Brownsville community and I’m just excited to be part of the growth that we’re going to have here in the next 20 years,” Hall Joiner said. “It’s going to be awesome.”