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  • A Legacy of Leadership - A Fond Farewell to Chamber President Randy George

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    For more than four decades, Randy George has served the River Region with his work – in multiple positions – at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. In April 2019, he stepped down as the organization’s president, a title he’d held for 31 years. MBJ asked George to reflect on his time at the Chamber and the good work it has accomplished during his long tenure.
     
    MBJ: What significant changes in the Chamber and the way it does its work have you seen during your time there?
    RG: The basic areas of Industrial/Economic Development, Military, Education, Conventions and Tourism, Membership and Administration were all here, but the scope of the activities and size of staff were far more limited.
     
    Name a few milestones Montgomery and the area have hit thanks to the Chamber’s work.
    When I came, Gunter Industrial Park was really new, and Rheem Manufacturing was the primary company there. Today, it is fully developed. The Chamber was engaged with a large portion of
    the others which located there. Interstate Industrial Park was newly developed by the Industrial Development Board, and Hager Hinge was the first company I worked with to locate there. Today, there are many others the Chamber successfully located. Another I’m proud of is the SABIC plant in Lowndes County. Formerly, SABIC was General Electric that located a huge Lexan chemical plant there; it was the largest project I had ever been responsible for, until Hyundai located its automobile plant in Montgomery. 
     
    Why have you always stressed the value of partnerships and how has that paid off?  
    In the economic development business, success comes from united entities working together to make the investments often required to successfully attract the company with its jobs and economic growth. The State, City, County, Industrial Development Board and the Chamber have always worked closely together to successfully attract and sustain growth from manufacturing facilities that are primary generators of jobs and resulting market growth. Over my 46 years at the Chamber, all of these government entities and the Chamber have trusted each other to worked as partners in the economic development effort. This partnership has resulted in untold jobs and economic opportunity, not just from the initial companies attracted, but across the economic spectrum, i.e. from jobs and dollars created by the growth of suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and others servicing the demand from the economic growth.
     
    What do you think your legacy is?  
    Legacy is a profound word. I don’t know that I leave anything worthy of that word. I am proud though of the Chamber and the team with whom I have worked these many years. I hired all of them, and I’m proud of every last one. They are the most competent and dedicated individuals anyone could possibly ask for. I would like to say just how long the tenure so many of them have, but I’m afraid they would let a contract on my demise were I to do so.
     
    Where would you like to see the Chamber in 10 years?  
    I would like to see it successfully orchestrate Montgomery’s move to a nationally recognized technology center and as a location recognized as offering a “high quality of place,” especially for young professionals. We are on our way. The mayor has led the establishment of Smart City technology now being put into place. The tech activities at both Maxwell and Gunter Air Force Bases are establishing technology activities in the downtown area now, and WiFi service highlighting consumer and visitor services and activities in downtown has launched. The Chamber is working diligently on quality of place projects that will make Montgomery even more attractive to young professionals as a place to live. Our leadership must solve our public education issues. Our business and political leadership are taking the proper steps with a new Board of Education and innovative new education approaches like charter schools. 
     
    What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your time with the Chamber?  
    Probably the value of partnerships, especially among public and private sector activities. When trust and understanding exist among government and business, many great things can happen. The other is creating for employees a true sense of teamwork, helping them recognize that all employees are important to the organization or their job would not exist, and that watching another team member struggle when you can help makes no sense because the economic well-being of the entire organization is put at risk.
     
    What has been the most rewarding part of or aspect of your work?  
    As I drive around town and see the many cars in the employee parking lots of companies that the Chamber played a part in successfully locating here, it is quite gratifying to know that in some meaningful way, we played a part in making those individuals’ lives more rewarding.
     
    MANY MILESTONES
    Chamber past President Randy George’s strong leadership and strategic coalition-building, have helped the Chamber play key roles in many of the region’s major economic development accomplishments.
    • First Project: 1975 American Sterilizer Co. (AMSCO) [now STERIS]: $4M investment; 100 employees; Today: 340 employees
    • 1984 General Electric Co. (GE), now SABIC: 280 employees; $50M annual payroll; 6,300 acres; Today: 320 employees
    • 2002 HMMA: $1B investment; 2,000 employees; $279M annual payroll; Today: 3,000 employees
    • 2004 – PRESENT Downtown Revitalization: $200+ Million
    • 2007-2018 Diversity Summit: 11 successful years of a nationally acclaimed event
    • 2018 F-35 jet program & new Maxwell Control Tower
     
    AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
    Randy George has racked up a long list of awards and prestigious positions. Here are just a few:
    • 1980- 1981 President, IDAA Industrial Developers Association of Alabama
    • 1981- 1982 President, CCAA Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama
    • 1993-1994 President, Southern Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
    • January 2007 Jamie Wallace Award
    FROM THE MAYOR:
    “For the past five decades, River Region business leaders have looked to Randy George for leadership, answers and good ideas. Randy and his staff have been instrumental in building an even greater Montgomery by bringing new businesses and opportunities to the River Region, while also working to expand existing industries. Not only did Randy drive economic development across our city, but he developed an exceptional Chamber team who have positioned Montgomery as one of the South’s commercial and techno-logical leaders. Randy continues to demonstrate his commitment to Montgomery by serving as a catalyst connecting businesses and resources to our entire community. We thank him for his decades of service and wish him all the best! We are eager to build on this legacy of success under the leadership of Anna B. Buckalew as we work to make the Capital of Dreams the best it can be.” Mayor Todd Strange
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