It was not that long ago, when it became clear that Kemble Pope would be stepping down from his position as CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce after three years, that I was having discussions with people about who might be in line for replacing Mr. Pope and Matt Yancey’s name came up.
Even at that time, it was difficult to imagine a better fit for Davis and what Davis is trying to do as a community with economic development, bringing in new business, converting research at the university into start-ups, and much more.
Most communities the size of Davis, most organizations like the Davis Chamber, would have no chance at a person with the background and experience of Matt Yancey.
As the Chamber press release stated, he arrives with an extensive background in community and economic development at both local and regional levels.
For the past seven years, he has served as the Director of Business and Economic Development for the Sacramento Metro Chamber. In other words, he has done much of what we are asking him to do for seven years in a larger market.
He is a native to the region, a resident of Yolo County, and as such he understand the needs of this community and already has the ties in the region through the Sacramento Metro Chamber to be able to look outside of this community and appreciate the importance of a regional perspective.
He is a young guy who brings experience, but also enthusiasm and the ability to work to bring people together in support of common goals.
And he also has experience working with universities. His first job was with the university-affiliated Center for Economic Development conducting research on sustainable community indicators and he has practical experience working with the consulting firm of Applied Development Economics.
For a community like Davis to land a person of this background and experience is extraordinary. This was a clear home run, not only for the Davis Chamber but for the community.
He comes, of course, at a critical time. Davis is facing both a crisis and a crossroads. We have laid out many times the crisis that Davis faces. We have a clear revenue problem as we attempt to provide high levels of city services and amenities in the face of growing costs and exploding infrastructure needs, while lacking a tax revenue base.
Matt Yancey enters the picture at a crucial time. The city has moved forward on an economic development strategy that is focusing on the possible development of peripheral innovation parks, the city is working with the university on Nishi which will have an innovation component, the city is looking at the possible development of a Hotel-Conference Center, the city is looking to reshape the entrance to the city through the Gateway Project, the city may be getting critical funding to seriously look at rail realignment, and the city is looking at the potential for redeveloping the downtown.
As the city goes forward with its longer view, it needs strong leadership, not just from the city side, but also from the business side to help guide this process.
At the Metro Chamber, Mr. Yancey “defined and honed his unwavering commitment to collaboration as the key to economic prosperity and vitality for regions and localities. Among many other chamber-related duties, he has been responsible for shepherding the Capital Region’s Business Bridge Partnership, a coalition of nearly 20 public and private sector entities in the capital region committed to jointly addressing issues of business retention and expansion.”
The Chamber release continued, “Through his leadership, that partnership expanded (despite the recession); facilitated over 13,000 company visits since 2007; and won multiple awards of excellence including the International Economic Development Council’s award for regionalism and cross-border collaboration in 2011.”
“Throughout the selection process, the entire Search Committee and Executive Board were continually impressed with Matt’s keen awareness of the local and regional issues facing us today, as well as his deep understanding of the role economic development plays in maintaining and enhancing the social fabric of a community,” said 2014 Board Chair, Jennifer Nitzkowski, Carbahal & Company. “Matt also understands the importance of providing a high return on investment to our 600+ members. The entire Board is excited to begin working with Matt to continue advancement of the Chamber’s mission, goals and objectives.”
This is exactly what the Davis Chamber and the entire community needs – someone with the experience and the ability to attract new business and work together collaboratively through public and private partnerships.
The bottom line is that, while the future has yet to be written, the Davis Chamber has hit a home run on their choice for a new CEO.
While the Vanguard has at times been quite critical of both the Chamber and its leadership, we need to make it a point to commend them for their work and the opportunity the hiring of Matt Yancey represents.
Kemble Pope will leave the Chamber in a few weeks, but when he does he can do so knowing that he leaves the organization in a far better place than when he arrived. And really, that’s all you can really ever ask.
—David M. Greenwald reporting