Michael Malone, 66, was named president and CEO of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce in February 2016. He has led chambers of commerce in Virginia, Illinois, Florida and Tennessee.
Malone, who was born and raised in West Virginia, earned a master’s degree in international relations and American government from West Virginia University.
You have led chambers all over the United States. What attracted you to the Texarkana job?
I was attracted to the community because it is on the verge of greatness. I wanted to be a part of the success. It is a community that believes in moving forward, that enjoys strong family values, that isn’t afraid of business but embraces it. It is a community of people who truly care about its future. A region of highways, a low cost of living and the proximity to growing neighbors. I wanted to make a difference and contribute to the future success of the region as it strives to grow stronger.
How do the two cities work together to encourage economic development?
Our community agrees that growth in one area benefits the entire region. Our communities have cooperated on common goals, demonstrated by having one water utility and one airport. More than 100 years ago, the business community understood the importance of a strong team and founded one chamber to meet the needs and the future of business in both cities. The chamber hosts quarterly joint city meetings to bring our government leaders together to discuss common challenges and to seek joint solutions.
How important is cooperation in the four-state region and Texarkana for success?
Cooperation is absolutely necessary. The world grows smaller everyday with the interaction and interconnectivity of people and businesses. The transportation network strengthens this interconnectivity for the movement of workers and products. Texarkana has a geographical advantage of being located near the borders of four states. This geographical position, along with a strong transportation network, allows citizens, workers, visitors and residents to move comfortably throughout the area.
In economic development, we take a regional approach. Our governmental leaders, educators and workers understand growth in one area brings growth to the total area. Cities, schools, hospitals and businesses all understand a complementary and cooperative approach in doing business. They further understand more success can be achieved by working together than by working against each other.
Do your counterparts on the Texas side have any tools you don’t have?
Texas offers a robust variety of economic development tools to assist in economic development. With a larger population, Texas can generate more funds used in attracting, retaining and growing businesses in the area. Both states offer similar enticements to business.
What is the best-kept secret about Texarkana?
The best-kept secret may be the people and the importance of the city’s location. People make the community. People make positive change happen. At the end of the day, it is the people who make a community worthwhile. Life is about relationships, and Texarkana is full of people who have relationships with other people who make change happen.
Texarkana is often thought of as a community in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas where people can stop for lunch on the way to another place. However, people from all over the world travel to Texarkana to appreciate the wonders of the region: industry, history and nature. We are more than a crossroads on an expedition. We are a destination for life. We are two cities but one community working together across state lines.