New CEO of State Chamber Targets Business Climate

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 8, 2008 12:00 am  

Randy Zook: "The business climate includes everything from the work force to taxes to insurance costs to infrastructure availability."

Zook said he would build on Harvel's tenure at the State Chamber/AIA, which began in 2006.

In his two-and-a-half years leading the State Chamber and AIA, Harvel increased the membership by 55 percent and raised revenue by about the same amount to about $1.8 million, McDonald said.

"Paul did a great job in terms of re-establishing really strong relationships across the state at the local chamber level and with local economic developers," McDonald said.

Some of the highlights of Harvel's tenure include starting the Leadership Arkansas program, which builds a diverse statewide network of leaders who have a commitment to connect communities and improve Arkansas. The third leadership program will start on Sept. 14.

"The main thing that Paul was able to do, and he did it very beautifully, was to excite our membership base," said Randy Wilbourn, who will become the chairman of the State Chamber in October.

Harvel was unavailable for comment last week. But he said in a statement in February that, "I greatly appreciate the opportunity given to me by the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors to accomplish what we have done together over the previous two years. Our partnership has been the most satisfying work in my entire 40-year professional career."

Zook said his goal as CEO is to build the membership by targeting manufacturing companies outside of central Arkansas.

His strategy is to meet with the executives of the companies and make his case that joining the State Chamber and AIA is in their best interest.

As a member, companies can participate in the policy committees of the State Chamber/AIA and vote on policy statements. In addition, members have access to state and national elected officials, the State Chamber/AIA said on its Web site.

The dues depend on how many employees the company has, but they typically run about $500 annually, Zook said.

Upcoming Session

Zook said one of the items on the agenda for the 87th General Assembly would be to further reduce the taxes manufacturers pay for their utilities.



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