All In for MGM
2022 Chamber Chairman Q&A Meet the 2022 Chamber Chairman Chairman Outlook 2022: A Momentous Year
The Chamber’s 2022 Chairman Cedric Campbell is committed to ensuring the voices of all Montgomery businesses are heard, so he’s setting a generous table and inviting everyone to take a seat.
Montgomery native Cedric Campbell grew up working alongside his dad, who was a tile mason. Together, they’d measure and cut, place and affix different sizes and colors of tile. Those moments proved much more than labor mixed with family time for Campbell; while laying tile, he was laying the foundation for his future career as a civil engineer.
Today, he’s Regional Vice President at Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC) a multi-disciplined architectural-engineering firm, where his primary duties include his engineering projects for the firm, as well as overseeing the home base of the expanding company, which now has more than 400 employees in 22 offices.
He’s also added a few new lines to his lengthy to-do list, namely the responsibilities that come with serving as the Chamber’s 2022 Chairman of the Board. As he begins his tenure in this position this month, he’s rolling up his sleeves to pick up where John Yelverton left off. Campbell praised his predecessor’s efforts in 2021, specifically his vocal support of Montgomery public schools. Campbell is also excited about leading the city’s new downtown plan and stoking the current buzz into a full-blown enthusiasm. But, there is a much broader objective topping his agenda. Campbell is challenging the Chamber to unify the business community by embracing diverse perspectives, and he’s looking to add even more places at the Chamber’s growing table.
We asked Campbell to share what brought him to where he is, and what he hopes to inject into the Chamber and therefore, his hometown, during his time as Chairman.
What made you become interested in engineering?
My uncles, cousins and dad were all in construction. My dad was a tile mason, so I grew up doing some of that with him. I remember saying to him, “I want to do what you do”, and he said, “Nah, I want you to do a little better, reach a little higher.” Then, in high school [at Lanier High School], my physics instructor piqued my interest when speaking about engineering. I realized that civil engineering, with its relation to construction, seemed familiar to what I’ve grown up around with my dad. I went to Auburn University, obtained my civil engineering degree and interned with Caddell Construction. After graduation, I began working with Krebs Engineering, a firm based in Birmingham. I worked in a small office in Montgomery for a short time, but eventually resigned because Krebs’ wanted me to work in Birmingham. After resigning, I reached out to other firms, interviewed with GMC, and the rest is history. That was 1998, and I’ve been here ever since.
What has your career path at GMC looked like?
I started in the public sector side of engineering, working on water and sewer system plans for various municipalities and counties. A few years later, I moved to the transportation side of engineering, performing roadway design for Alabama Department of Transportation projects. Later, I transitioned into private developments such as EastChase, residential projects like Taylor Lakes and Sturbridge, and large industrial developments. The training I received earlier in my career prepared me for the transition the firm made during the recession. Our firm began housing both public and private sector engineering under one umbrella.
What do you love about your work?
I love seeing the impact of the end-product of my job and its role in improving the quality of life for people. For example, the EastChase development here in Montgomery. On that project, we were helping to create a great shopping hub for a lot of people. In the Black Belt region, our projects assisted people in obtaining basic necessities such as water, sewer and improved street networks. It is very rewarding to be able to play a role in improving people’s quality of life. What it really comes down to is GMC’s mission statement – building communities. That really hits home with me. I also love being around huge earthmoving equipment too. I still think that stuff is pretty cool and fun like I did when I was a kid.
Talk about your community involvements and what drives those.
I enjoyed coaching Little League baseball and softball when my kids were playing. I’m a deacon at my church, First Baptist of Greater Washington Park. I am a Kiwanian and serve on the Architectural Review Board for the city. I also sit on the advisory board for Baptist South hospital, and that has been a true eye-opening experience, especially during the pandemic. I have had an opportunity to speak directly with doctors and others in healthcare about the importance of COVID vaccines, and I have been able to share that message in the community. There’s been a lot of misinformation, so I’m happy I’ve been able to spread the facts.
Why have you been so involved in the Chamber and why did you agree to take on this leadership role?
For us here at GMC, economic development is key in our world. I’ve been able to see firsthand, that it is the way to improve the quality of life for residents in any community. In a small town, something seemingly as simple as bringing a Dollar General store can do so much. In Montgomery, projects like the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant are game changers.
So, the Chamber’s efforts in the arena of economic development are key to this city, and they do a wonderful job attracting industries that pay good wages and provide benefits. The work Ellen [McNair] and her team do in recruiting and retaining industries; we see the positive impacts of it every day. They call on us to help compile information for a particular industry, as it relates to infrastructure, they may need to locate in the River Region. The Chamber is just a part of what we do, so it’s natural for GMC to support and help any way we can. And in my role at GMC, it’s a great fit for me to serve the Chamber in this way. It’s really a privilege and honor. I joked with Anna Buckalew about having two engineers serve back to back as Chairman; we’ll see if they want any more of us after this year!
Why do you encourage others to get involved in the Chamber?
It offers such tremendous and diverse opportunities for any type or size business. The networking is great, but you also gain access to many different perspectives, and that is very valuable. Getting to know different people and sharing is what makes the world a better place. I love hearing different ideas, getting various insights on things, and then sharing my thoughts and experiences in the hopes that they can help someone else.
A great example of the change that we can bring is when all of us [the Montgomery business community] pulled together to get the property tax passed. The Chamber led that charge and brought us together to have the needed conversations. That allowed many folks coming from different places and directions to get behind one goal and get it done. That is just one example of the opportunity we have, through the Chamber, to make a meaningful difference. When the business community comes together as a collective voice, it is a big voice that can do big things.
What are your priorities as Chairman?
I want to ensure that we continue the support of MPS that John Yelverton has done such a great job spearheading. Another huge initiative is working with the city on the new downtown plan. There are so many great things going on downtown. But there is still a lot of work to do. We have vacant buildings we need to see improved. We want more tourism downtown, but we need to get a clearer understanding of what it takes to do that. We want to extend the trips people are making to the Equal Justice Initiative’s museums and, later, to the Whitewater complex. Having adequate lodging, more dining options and nightlife venues are part of the experience visitors need to prolong their stay. I definitely want to keep the ball rolling on making the Chamber as inclusive as possible. Everyone needs a seat at the table.
What is the No. 1 challenge Montgomery faces, and what are your thoughts on surmounting it?
Our public school system. I am sure it has been said by others over last few years. We have not served our students well in the past. But today, we are in a better position than we have been for sure. We are progressing, but it takes time. We must prepare every student to compete in a global economy. And not just for their sakes, but also for ours. This preparation affects us both in the recruiting industry and in recruiting employees. It affects the military here too. Maxwell-Gunter plays such a significant role in this economy and in our culture. It’s not just about today’s students; it’s about the future of the entire city.
When he’s not donning a hard hat for GMC or wearing his Chamber name badge, Cedric Campbell is husband to wife Kanoschu and dad to six children. Kanoschu is a social worker with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, where her focus is placing children in safe and loving permanent homes. Five of their children are out on their own now, and the sixth is a 9-year-old who keeps them young. He enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends. Time constraints have limited his ability to play golf, but when not working in the yard, he now spends his free time enjoying the great outdoors. Not on a grassy course but on the River Region’s roads. “I just love to be outside,” he said. “I ride with my buddies on weekends as much as I can.” On a typical weekend, Campbell pedal pushes between 20 and 40 miles.
The time is right to craft a fresh economic development vision for the Montgomery region, with diverse ideas and bold leadership around the table.
For two consecutive years, the Chamber has been named a Top 20 Economic Development Organization in the United States. This award-winning track record is built on a partnership that unites business and the public sector in the capital city with a shared commitment to economic growth.
The Imagine a Greater Montgomery strategy was launched in 2007, to reshape Montgomery’s economic direction after Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama located here. Since that time, several five-year Imagine increments have come and gone, and each time leadership has asked: “What are the greatest obstacles to economic development? And, how do we overcome them?”
Great progress was achieved, but our pace of progress—our velocity—needed to increase. In 2019, working with analysts behind the Envision 2040 plan, the Chamber picked up speed by drilling into opportunity gaps, taking stock of regional assets and then aligning its focus even more sharply with the incorporation of Mayor Reed’s Montgomery United Report. The result is this short list of priorities that has accelerated our progress and now leads us into this next economic development plan with clarity and momentum.
- Establish Montgomery as a Leading Logistics Hub in the Southeast
- Accelerate Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development
- Grow Military Mission and Culture
- Amplify the Tourism Experience and Tell our Story
- Transform Public Schools
- Recruit and Retain Talent
- Be an Advocate and Catalyst for Business and Economic Growth
“Across Montgomery and the River Region, there’s an excitement about the New Year and its fresh possibilities. It’s been almost two years since the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped our world, and yet it feels in some ways as if it was a lifetime ago. Perhaps it’s the heaviness, the weariness of what we’ve all been through, combined with a surge of optimism for the future that makes the 2022 New Year feel so full of potential. At the Chamber, we know there is another reason fueling that optimism: Momentum.
The past two years have brought unprecedented economic growth, new investment and world-wide interest to Montgomery. Named one of the nation’s top economic development organizations two years running, the Chamber is proud of the public/private partnership that has fueled that success.
The time is now to build on that momentum with a next-generation economic and community growth commitment. In 2019, the Chamber refined its Imagine a Greater Montgomery plan, homing in on priorities that best leveraged our regional assets. That focus yielded results. This year, we take the next step by bringing leadership together not to simply imagine a better Montgomery region, but to agree on how we build it. How do we use our momentum to accelerate the rate of change and growth for all Montgomery and our regional partners? A strong, united business community, working with the public sector around a shared vision is a powerful driving force. Here’s to the power of momentum in 2022!”
-Anna Buckalew, CEO, The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce