Upstate Chambers Groom Today’s Professionals into Tomorrow’s Leaders

Chambers of commerce in our area serve a critical role in creating a future for our Upstate tomorrow. They help businesses connect with one another, provide professional and personal development opportunities, and influence legislation that affects businesses in the Upstate. Through leadership programs, area chambers also train leaders in our areas to build up the local community and help professionals identify the needs in our communities.

April Huttunen, the Director of Corporate Health & Wellness at the Pelham Medical Center, shared that Leadership Simpsonville "has provided [me with] a better understanding and appreciation of my community and how my family, friends, and employer can better serve the needs of Simpsonville."

Most of these leadership classes have 15-30 participants. These participants spend time each month learning about and serving their communities. Many classes kick off with an opening retreat that helps participants get to know each other and learn about their unique abilities to build a strong foundation for community growth. After the retreat, they meet each month. These meetings might include volunteering at a lesser known charity or learning about the impact of a specific industry, such as manufacturing or healthcare, within their community.

The application process is stringent and the programs typically require a 10-month commitment. But that doesn't stop many professionals from joining.

"I applied to Leadership Greer because I was looking for ways to get more involved and contribute to Greer's growth and success, both as a business owner and as an individual," stated Stacey Jewett, principal of Jewett Financial. "Greer is such a vibrant and special place already and it's natural to want to make a difference. This program offers the opportunity to learn from Greer's leaders and discover the inner workings and 'hidden gems' of our city."

These leadership programs don't just help the individual participants, but their community at large.

John Castile, the Greenville City Manager, shares the class's impact on the Upstate, "Leadership Greenville provides future leaders with the necessary tools to make a meaningful positive impact on our community, as well as insight on our future challenges."

The Leadership Oconee County program involves leaders from multiple areas and is sponsored by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, Walhalla Chamber of Commerce, Westminster Chamber of Commerce, and School District of Oconee County.

Grant Nicholson, Assistant Vice President at Blue Ridge Bank, explains how a strong leadership class affects future leadership classes, "Leadership Oconee plays an important role in the County by hosting an organized effort to get some of the emerging Leaders to learn more about our area. With each year, the class continues to host a diverse group that not only gains knowledge for themselves, but that provides their time to ensure that our future classes do the same."

For more information or to apply for an upcoming leadership program, contact your local chamber of commerce.

Jamie Gillenwater works as a technical communication consultant for Transcend Text, LLC. Her writing focuses on her Upstate community, technical communication, and corporate training. She is an active member of the Society for Technical Communication's Carolina chapter, Connect Young Professionals, and the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce Women's Leadership Council.